Colchester Zoo

Colchester Zoo celebrates Southern white rhino calf

Posted: 24th January, 2023

Colchester Zoo could not have asked to start their 60th anniversary year any better than with the birth of a healthy Southern white rhino calf!

Back in September 2022 we announced that White rhino, Astrid, was due to give birth in early 2023 after a gestation period of 16 months! Staff knew the arrival would be around January or February but were unsure of exact dates. Throughout early January, their keepers were on an hourly rota throughout the night watching the rhino CCTV, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Astrid’s second calf.

Early in the morning on the 13th January, the Animal Care Team’s efforts paid off with Astrid giving birth, after a quick labour, to a 66kg female calf. The calf was strong and healthy and appeared keen in her search for milk, however seemed to be confused as to where milk comes from!

Team Leader, Jo Burch, said;

“The new-born explored her stall looking for a milk source but unfortunately didn’t successfully suckle from mum. This continued throughout the day on the 13th, and we were starting to get concerned that as the hours passed without her drinking, she would miss the vital colostrum from mum. Therefore, that afternoon, we made the decision to express milk from Astrid and feed the calf via a bottle.

We had regularly been checking Astrid’s teats throughout January to check for milk pre-birth, so Astrid was used to this process. After a bit of assistance squeezing the milk from the bottle, the calf hungrily took her first feed.”

The weekend after her birth, this process continued with the calf being fed expressed milk every two hours throughout the day as the team continued their hourly watches throughout the night just to make sure they didn’t miss the calf suckle from mum. Finally, on the afternoon of the 15th January, the Animal Care Team successfully managed to encourage the calf to drink from Astrid.

The teams hard work and dedication had paid off and since that first drink from mum, the calf hasn’t looked back. A final night of observations confirmed the calf drank regularly and she has continued unabated since that point.

When asked about the youngster, Jo said, “At a week old now, her personality is starting to show through, even to the point of refusing to let the us get a new weight off her as she enjoys zooming around her enclosure. We like to get to know the new-borns before naming them as we like their name to have a specific meaning to the individual, we have some ideas but have not made a decision yet. We may ask the public to help us choose when we have a shortlist!”

Astrid’s daughter is the seventh calf born at Colchester Zoo. The Southern White Rhino breeding programme is one of their most successful at Colchester Zoo and is championed by male, Otto, who has sired an amazing five calves already! Otto was born in 1997 and arrived at Colchester Zoo in 2009 from Knuthenborg Safari Park in Bandholm, Denmark.

White rhinos are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, this is due to the poaching crisis and ivory trade, so this birth is brilliant news for the conservation of this magnificent species. Congratulations to the team at Colchester Zoo!

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