08 02/08/2018

Baby black rhino birth catches visitors by surprise at Chester Zoo

Visitors to Chester Zoo were left stunned when a rhino gave birth in front of them.

  • Visitors to Chester Zoo astonished as Eastern black rhino calf is born in front of them
  • Proud mum Malindi delivered the youngster in front of onlookers after a 15-month pregnancy
  • Eastern black rhinos are critically endangered - JUST 650 remain in the wild
  • Poaching of rhino horn for the illegal wildlife trade has driven the species towards extinction
  • New arrival offers hope to conservationists working to preserve numbers globally  
  • Chester Zoo experts are fighting to protect wild rhinos in Africa right now

While most rhino births typically happen at night or in the early hours of the morning, Malindi, a 12-year-old critically endangered Eastern black rhino, shocked onlookers when she went into labour at around 12:30 in the middle of a busy summer’s day.

A healthy male calf was delivered safely less than half an hour later in what zoo conservationists have described as a “very rare and special event” to witness.

The little one was up on his feet within 15 minutes and was seen running around soon after, before returning to suckle from mum.

Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals at the zoo, said:
Visitors to the zoo were treated to something incredibly special when Eastern black rhino, Malindi, went in to labour in front of them. With just 650 Eastern black rhino left in the wild, seeing the birth of a new calf and it’s very first steps is a very rare and special event indeed.

The newborn was delivered onto soft wood mulch and within next to no time it was up on its feet and running around – it couldn’t have gone any smoother.

Although it’s still very early days, the little one is showing great signs by feeding regularly and mum and calf appear to have bonded very quickly.

We just hope this new calf helps us to raise some much needed attention to this truly magnificent species, and inspires urgent action to protect their future on this planet. We cannot and must not allow this subspecies to become extinct – a fate which has, tragically, already become of some of its cousins.

Conservationists now fear that less than 650 Eastern black rhino remain across Africa, with the animals listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Visitors to Chester Zoo were treated to the birth of a critically endangered Eastern black rhino calf yesterday

The staggeringly low wild number is a result of the illegal wildlife trade, driven by the increasing demand for rhino horn, which supplies the traditional Asian medicine market where it is currently changing hands for more than gold and drugs.

Mike Jordan, Collections Director at Chester Zoo, added:
This new arrival is a real boost to a critically endangered species. It increases the number of Eastern black rhino at Chester to 11 and is another vitally important success story in a Europe-wide breeding programme for these highly threatened animals. A thriving, healthy population of this high profile species in good zoos is vitally important to the future of this species and a key component of our mission to prevent their extinction.
In tandem with its acclaimed breeding programme, Chester Zoo is also fighting for the survival of Eastern black rhino in the field and has long supported conservation efforts to protect black rhinos and continues to fund, and provide expertise, to numerous sanctuaries, partners and wildlife reserves in Africa.

Reaction to the rhino birth

@DavidBl03916440 on Twitter said: “very lucky to witness the birth of a black rhino at Chester Zoo on Wednesday 31.”

@lloobie6 on Twitter said “New baby black rhino literally just born at Chester Zoo”

@ClaireNorcott on Twitter said “Another great day @chesterzoo, welcome to the new baby rhino”

Chester Zoo and the conservation-breeding of Eastern black rhinos

  • The new calf at Chester Zoo was born to mum Malindi (12) at 12:56 on 31/07/18
  • Malindi has had one calf previously – a female named Dakima, born in 2013
  • Dad Magadi is 19 years old and has sired five previous calves – one male and four females
  • Chester Zoo has been successful in breeding a number of critically endangered black rhinos and plays a vital part in the international breeding programme, helping to ensure an insurance population exists in the event that black rhino become extinct in the wild
  • The latest arrival means that 11 Eastern black rhino calves have now been born at the zoo in the last 20 years
  • The zoo’s director general, Dr Mark Pilgrim, is responsible for managing the European breeding programme for the Eastern black rhino
  • Ground-breaking science by a team at Chester Zoo team has contributed to the zoo’s successful black rhino breeding programme. Zoo researchers have spent several years carefully monitoring the hormone levels of their resident female rhinos in a bid to discover the best time to introduce them to a potential partner. These hormone levels are monitored by analysing rhino dung. Tracking hormones gives an insight into what is going on inside the animals. It can help tell things like whether or not an animal is a seasonal breeder, whether it has reached puberty, whether it’s cycling on a regular basis or not and when the optimum time to introduce a male to a female is, as well as diagnose pregnancies and estimate when an animal will give birth
  • The zoo is currently home to 11 critically endangered Eastern black rhinos and three greater one-horned rhinos

Chester Zoo and rhino conservation in Africa

  • Eastern black rhinos are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • The growing price of rhino horn has led to a massive decline in rhino numbers, which have decreased by around 95% across Africa since the turn of the 20th century. 2014 was branded ‘the worst poaching year on record’ by leading conservationists after over 1,200 rhinos were hunted in South Africa alone - a 9,000% increase from 2007
  • Chester Zoo is fighting for the survival of Eastern black rhino and has long supported conservation efforts in the wild to try and protect black rhinos and continues to fund, and provide expertise, to numerous sanctuaries in Africa
  • The Chester Zoo Black Rhino Programme started in 1999, in partnership with Save the Rhino, providing substantial financial support to Kenya Wildlife Service to enable the translocation of 20 black rhinos to wildlife reserves in the Tsavo region of Kenya
  • Recently the zoo has also provided support for rhino protection to its partners the Big Life Foundation in Chyulu Hills National Park in Kenya and the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust in Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania
  • In June 2015, the world’s leading experts on rhinos and rhino conservation came together in Europe for the first time when Chester Zoo hosted over 100 zookeepers, researchers, scientists and conservationists from the USA, Australia, Africa and Europe to debate issues surrounding the five species of rhino – black, greater one-horned, white, Sumatran and Javan rhino

Notes to editors   

Chester Zoo

  • Chester Zoo (www.chesterzoo.org) is a registered conservation and education charity that supports projects around the world and closer to home in Cheshire. Welcoming 1.9 million visitors a year, it is the most visited zoo in the UK; home to over 21,000 animals and more than 500 different species, many of which are endangered in the wild
  • Chester Zoo is the UK’s most visited tourist attraction outside London, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA)
  • Through its wildlife conservation campaign, Act for Wildlife, the zoo is helping to save highly threatened species around the world from extinction. Find out more at www.actforwildlife.org.uk
  • www.facebook.com/chesterzoo1
  • @chesterzoo

  • The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) is a conservation, education and wildlife charity, representing over 100 of the best zoos and aquariums in Britain and Ireland
  • BIAZA collections have global impact, participating in over 800 conservation projects, 1,400 research projects and contributing more than £24 million a year to field conservation. With over 30 million visitors being welcomed annually, BIAZA zoos and aquariums are recognised as offering a fun and safe way to learn about animals and together they deliver formal education sessions to more than 1 million students
  • BIAZA and its members are a powerful force in the care and conservation of the natural world. Collectively they endeavour to inspire people to protect our planet’s rich biodiversity, deliver high quality environmental education, training and research whilst achieving the highest standards of animal care and welfare
  • www.biaza.org.uk