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Baby Rhino at Busch Gardens
It is always good news when a new baby is born, but the birth of a little white rhino calf at Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay, Florida, was greeted with great celebration, as the white rhino is a threatened species. This baby girl rhino was born to Mlaleni and Tambo, and is this couple’s fourth baby. At birth this huge baby weighed in at an estimated 100 lbs, but when fully grown it will one day reach a massive 8, 000 lbs – and it will be a truly formidable beast. The white rhino is the second largest land animal after the elephant, and the record holder weighed in at an extraordinary 10, 000 lbs.
With a massive body and very large head, its actual body length can be between 11 to 14 ft, plus a tail measuring another 20-28 inches. It is massively heavy, weighing from 1, 360kg to 3, 630kg, with the males being slightly heavier than the females. Despite its size the rhino can run at speeds of up to 50km per hour, 31 mph. The two horns on its nose are not made of bone, but of keratin. The front horn is the larger and can measure between 35 and 90 inches. The rhino has four stumpy feet with three toes on each foot. It uses its flat broad mouth for grazing, and its ears can move independently to pick up sounds. However, it uses its sense of smell more than its hearing, and amazingly, its olfactory passages are larger than its brain.
This new baby was born in the night at the quarters adjacent to the white rhino habitat on the Serengeti Plain at Bush Gardens, which covers 26 acres. Mlaleni and Tambo produced their first baby white rhino in October 2004, when Malaika was born. This was followed by the birth of Dakari in August 2006, whilst their third, Crash, was born in May 2008. Whilst its skin can be several centimetres thick, it was reported that the mother and baby bonded with some nuzzling of their muzzles. The new baby increases the rhino population at Busch Gardens to 12, with 9 white and 3 black rhinos in captivity.
Gestation normally takes around 16-18 months, and when the calf is born it can weigh between 88 and 140 lbs. The mother rhino is very protective and will defend her calf robustly. Whilst the baby may begin weaning at 2 months of age, it may continue to suckle for over a year. White rhinos can live to be 40-50 years of age, and have no natural predators as a result of their huge size, weight and very tough skin.
Mlelani, Tambo and another female white rhino were airlifted from Kruger National Park in South Africa in 2001. It was the International Rhino Foundation which helped to bring this about, and this non-profit making organisation is dedicated to the protection of the rhino. It seems that there are only about 14, 530 white rhino still living in the wild, together with less than 170 living in zoos across North America. The White Rhinoceros is a herbivore, grazing on grass. Although it drinks twice a day it can live four or five days without water. They enjoy wallowing in mud-holes which helps them to cool down.
It is always fascinating to watch the rhinos at Busch Gardens and this baby will be the centre of attention as it grows up there.
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