The Virginia Safari Park, a ZAA accredited facility, welcomed its third baby Southern white rhinoceros on March 13th. The healthy baby boy was born after a 16-month pregnancy to “Samira” a 9 year-old female imported by the Safari Park in 2011. The father, “Leroy” is a 16 year-old male which came to the Park in 2013 from the Center for Conservation of Tropical Ungulates (CCTU), a breeding sanctuary in Florida.
Wild rhinos are facing the worst poaching streak in history, leaving less than 20,000 Southern white rhinos left in the wild. Virginia Safari Park imported four female white rhinos from South Africa to help protect rhinos from being poached in that country. Despite their name, white rhinos are actually grey in color, with two horns on the bridge of their head. Some cultures falsely believe rhino horns, which are made of keratin like our fingernails, can cure diseases. This leaves wild rhinos severely endangered and without continued conservation efforts, it is estimated the wild populations will be extinct in less than 20 years.
"Many of the rhinos within the same original territory as the females here at Virginia Safari Park have since been poached for their horns.” said Eric Mogensen, Corporate Director and CEO of Virginia Safari Park. “It is important for the long-term survival of the species, and for our conservation programs in general, to set up additional breeding groups to assist with this cause."
The baby, named “Sebastian” by staff, is gaining weight at a rate of around 10 pounds per day. He is full of energy and, although baby rhinos are born without horns, he can be seen playfully butting his mother. Rhino calves are born weighing between 80- 140 pounds. Fully grown females like mother, "Samira", weigh roughly 3,000 to 4,000 pounds, while adult males like, "Leroy," weigh up to 5,000 pounds.
"Sebastian is our third rhino calf born at Virginia Safari Park and the fourth to our company as a whole, so we are very happy to see our herd of rhinos continue to grow," said, Collections Manager, Sarah Friedel. "Another female from our herd is also pregnant and due to give birth in July, so we have a lot to look forward to."