In a huge win for conservation efforts, a southern white rhino calf was born at the San Diego Zoo on Aug. 28. The mother, Victoria, was artificially inseminated in March of 2018 and carried the calf for a whopping 493 days before giving birth (can you imagine being pregnant that long?!). This is the first southern white rhino born at the San Diego Zoo after artificial insemination, and the calf’s name is Edward.
“This birth is significant, as it also represents a critical step in our effort to save the northern white rhino from the brink of extinction,” Barbara Durrant, director of reproductive science at San Diego Zoo Global, told The Washington Post in an interview.
How can one species help another? Well, the northern white rhino is related to the southern white rhino, albeit distantly, and only two documented northern white rhinos are alive today (yes, this is horrible). Both of the living northern white rhinos are female, but scientists managed to preserve sperm from males in the species.
Scientists hope that eventually, southern white rhinos will be able to be surrogate mothers for northern white rhino embryos. It’s not possible quite yet, but researchers hope to have a successful birth within 10 to 20 years.
In the meantime, however, it is more than enough to celebrate young Edward’s birthday. The calf and his mother are currently bonding outside of the exhibit and he won’t be visible to the public for a few more months, but zookeepers say the pair are doing well. They posted photos and video to their Twitter account, and it’s easy to see that mom and baby are already a loving pair:
Animal care staff reported that Victoria did extremely well and remained calm during the 30-minute labor. The calf is nursing well, and mother and baby are bonding in a quiet nursing setting. pic.twitter.com/qsyOQMLmRY
— San Diego Zoo Safari Park (@sdzsafaripark) July 29, 2019
“All of us at San Diego Zoo Global are elated with the arrival of this special rhino calf,” Durrant said in a press release about the birth . “We are so pleased Victoria and the calf are doing well. She is very attentive to her baby, and the calf is up and walking, and nursing frequently.”
We can’t wait to see more photos of Edward as he grows!