27 Jan 2015

The 50-second footage shows mum deliver her newborn and the tender first moments as she checks over her calf.

Born on Jan 31 at 08:15, the female calf, which keepers have named Fara, is the offspring of 17-year-old Kitani and 15-year-old dad, Sammy.

Sammy’s genes are extremely valuable part of the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme for the critically endangered animals.

Curator of mammals at Chester Zoo, Tim Rowlands, said:

Kitani’s delivery was textbook. We got a ‘maternity suite’ ready for her with deep sandy floors and beds of hay but ultimately she chose her own spot.

The footage has enabled us to witness this really special moment and both mum and youngster are doing really, really well.

Every birth is cause for great celebration but given that Eastern black rhino face a real threat of extinction our new arrival is even more significant. The calf is super important to the breeding programme in Europe and her arrival is another step towards sustaining a black rhino population which, in the wild, is being ravaged by poachers on an almost daily basis.

In the wild there are thought to be less than 650 Eastern black rhinos remaining, pushing the species perilously close to extinction.

Numbers in Africa are plummeting as a result of a dramatic surge in illegal poaching, fuelled by a global increase in demand for rhino horn to supply the traditional Asian medicine market.

The problem is being driven by the astonishing street value of rhino horn, which is currently worth more per gram than gold and cocaine.

Mr Rowlands added:

We put great effort into protecting black rhinos in the wild, supporting a number of sanctuaries across Africa. However, as the demand for rhino horn intensifies, poaching continues to become a bigger and bigger problem.

We hope that, one day, we can put an end to this crisis once and for all. But in the meantime we need to ensure we have an insurance population and that’s why this arrival is such brilliant news. This means there’s a very happy team of keepers, vets and conservationists here at Chester Zoo today

All being well, Fara will also one day play her own breeding role in a programme, which, in some cases, has already seen some black rhinos return to Africa to help boost numbers.

For the time being though she is forging very important early bonds with mum.

The calf is the latest in a long-line of arrivals at the zoo in the last two years, following Chanua, Dakima and Embu. She brings the total number of Eastern black rhinos at the zoo to 11.

Black rhino facts

  • Kitani was born at Chester Zoo on 16/06/1997. She is 17-years-old
  • Dad Sammy, 15, moved to Chester Zoo from Osaka in Japan in 2002. He currently lives at Port Lympne
  • The female calf, which keepers have named Fara, is a second for Kitani who had Asani in 2008
  • Eastern black rhinos are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • The number of black rhinos in Kenya plummeted from about 20,000 in 1970 to 597 (as at December 2010)
  • Chester Zoo is one of the main organisations 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 pump money, 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
  • More recently we have also provided support for the rhinos in Chyula Hills National Park and Laikipia District in Kenya and Mkomazi in Tanzania
  • Helping to ensure an insurance population exists in the event that black rhino become extinct in the wild; Chester Zoo has been successful in breeding a number of critically endangered black rhinos and plays a vital part in the international breeding programme
  • 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.