Endangered rhino calf at Whipsnade Zoo seen outside for the first time

  • Watch baby Benja running around with his mum Jaseera at Whipsnade Zoo

A baby rhino from an endangered species has been born at Britain's biggest zoo.

Benja, a southern white rhinoceros, which is listed as "near threatened", was born on 7 March at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire.

The six-week-old calf, who already weighs more than 100kg, has been spotted venturing outside for the first time after spending its early days in a den close to its mum, Jaseera.

He already appears to be a big fan of the zoo's 21-acre outdoor paddock, said zookeepers.

A baby southern white rhino from an endangered species has been born at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire. Credit: ZSL

Rhino keeper Michael Hepher said: "At six weeks old he’s getting bolder by the day. While he started out quite wobbly on his feet, he’s now firmly found his stride.  “When he’s not playing with the other rhinos, he loves to sleep and eat, and like any newborn he still needs regular naps."

Benja, a baby southern white rhino, has been enjoying exploring the 21 acre paddock at Whipsnade Zoo. Credit: ZSL

Fully grown southern white rhinos are one of the largest and heaviest animals in the world but their future is uncertain due to poachers and habitat loss.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has categorised them as "near threatened" after it was estimated that there may be fewer than 10,000 left in the world.

Whipsnade Zoo is part of global conservation charity ZSL, which works around the world to protect endangered species and their habitats.

Benja was named by ZSL’s conservationist team in Kenya, where they are part of efforts to protect rhinos and other species.

Baby Benja, a six week-old southern white rhino, has been enjoying the outdoors at Whipsnade Zoo. Credit: ZSL

Mr Hepher added: “As well as being an important addition to the conservation breeding programme for his species, Benja is a great ambassador helping to educate the public about rhinos in the wild and inspire them to support our conservation efforts.

"Sadly, there are only around 350 black rhinos left in Kenya today due to poaching and habitat loss.

"Similarly white rhinos, like our little Benja, are facing the same threats of poaching and habitat loss in South Africa in the wild, with 500 killed last year.” 

Poachers target rhinos for their horn which is used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Six week-old Benja, w southern white rhino, plays with his mother, Jaseera at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire. Credit: ZSL

ZSL Kenya country manager Gurveena Ghataure said the field team chose the name Benja, in honour of a dominant black rhino bull who lives in the Tsavo Conservation Area where ZSL works. 

"Benja is a highly distinguished rhino, with his name symbolising resilience.

"He is an incredible champion for these iconic creatures, and we felt this was the ideal name for the new calf at Whipsnade Zoo,” she said.

"We hope baby Benja is as enchanting as his namesake and has a long successful breeding future ahead of him, to help conserve these magnificent animals.” 

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know