SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s youngest southern white rhino began integrating with the rest of the park’s rhino herd Wednesday, meeting a rhino other than his mother for the first time since his birth 10 weeks ago.
Edward and his mother, Victoria, have remained sequestered from the rest of the herd since his birth in July to allow the two to bond and ensure he builds weight and stamina. The calf’s weight has nearly quadrupled since then and he has only entered the Safari Park’s rhino enclosure with Victoria.
Edward met Helene, an adult female southern white rhino, after she sparred with Victoria, who was very protective of her calf, according to the zoo’s animal care staff. They will continue introducing him to the rest of the Safari Park’s crash of rhinos as he gets larger and older.
“While Victoria knows the other rhinos, Edward has only observed them from a distance,” Safari Park Lead Keeper Jonnie Capiro said. “It’s time to get Edward acclimated to his crash. We chose to have Helene meet him first, as she is closely bonded with Victoria.”
Edward is the 99th southern white rhino calf born at the Safari Park and the first such calf to be born through artificial insemination in North America. His birth represents a step toward the zoo’s longer-term goal of recovering the northern white rhino, a distant relative of the southern white rhino. Only two northern white rhinos still exist on the planet and both are female.
Zoo officials plan to use stem cells and preserved northern white rhino cells to birth a northern white rhino calf within 10-20 years. The zoo’s southern white rhinos would serve as surrogates for the northern white rhino embryos through artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization or an embryo transfer.
If the plan proves successful, researchers could attempt similar assisted reproduction techniques with the critically endangered Sumatran and Javan rhinos.
The Safari Park is expecting a second southern white rhino birth early next month. The zoo announced that calf’s conception through artificial insemination last year.