A southern white rhino has been born at Hamilton Zoo

The female calf, named Zahra (Swahili in origin and meaning flower or beautiful) arrived 12 March 2020 following her mother’s 16-month pregnancy, bringing the number of white rhinos at the zoo to six.

Zahra is the fourth calf for mum Kito and joins father Kruger, brother Samburu and females Imani, and Moesha at the Zoo.

The calf was born with the skin condition Epidermolysis bullosa. Hamilton Zoo Curator Cheridan Mathers said this is a rare genetic condition that presents as lesions on the skin and is something she will have throughout her life.

“Visitors may notice lesions on her legs and under her chin,” said Ms Mathers. “Though the lesions can look unsightly, her behaviour tells us that these are not affecting her in any adverse way.  She’s still bright and bubbly, bouncing around, feeding from mum and exploring her environment.”  Zahra is being closely monitored by the keeping staff and vet team in accordance with high animal welfare standards. “The lesions are reducing and improving daily, which is encouraging”. 

The announcement of the new baby was held off while the vet team and keepers assessed Zahra’s condition. The decision was taken to confirm the preliminary diagnosis through testing, unfortunately the onset of Covid19 delayed this process.

Hamilton Zoo has had great success with the breeding programme for southern white rhinos, with eight born at the Zoo.

Males Kifaru and Ubuntu transferred to The National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra.  Inkosi and Mtoto are now at Auckland Zoo along with female Jamila, who transferred in 2018 and is herself due to give birth later this year.

Named for the Afrikaans word "weit" which means wide, referring to the animal's wide mouth, the southern white rhino was thought to be extinct in the late 19th century. However in 1895 a small population of fewer than 100 individuals were discovered in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa.

Today, after 121 years of successful protection and management, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have classified as the southern white rhino as "near threatened" in the wild.

Although still hunted and poached for their horns, which are believed to have medicinal qualities in some cultures, about 20,000 animals exist in protected areas and private game reserves.

Baby Zahra will be on display to the public as of today (Friday 15 May).