Singapore Zoo welcomes baby female white rhino

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Zoo received an early Christmas gift in the form of a Southern white rhinoceros calf that was born last Thursday (Dec 19).

The female calf, which has not been named yet, is the 24th such rhino to be born in the zoo. It is also the 12th calf born to its 34-year-old mother Donsa.

Donsa and the calf's father, Hoepel, arrived in the Singapore Zoo from South Africa in 1992 and 2000 respectively.

"(The baby) is quickly getting her footing and growing stronger," the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) said in a video it posted on Facebook on Friday.

Members of the public are unable to see Donsa and her baby calf yet, but zoo visitors can meet the calf's father Hoepel and other white rhinos during their daily feeding session at 1.15pm.

White rhinos have been among the animals in the WRS' attractions since 1972.

The WRS started breeding the species in 1996.

Since then, 17 rhinos have taken part in overseas zoos' breeding programmes in Australia, India, Indonesia, Korea and Thailand.

"The combined effort of successful conservation breeding programmes has allowed the species, which was once in serious threat from extinction, to make a successful comeback, and it is now relatively stable in the wild," the WRS said.

White rhinos are considered near threatened in the wild on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened species. They are poached for their horns, which some believe as having medicinal properties.

They got their name partly by mistake - the English word "white" is said to have been derived by mistranslation of the Dutch word "wijd", which means "wide" in English.

The word "wide" refers to the mouths of white rhinos, which are also known as square-lipped rhinos.

Together with the Indian rhino, it is the largest species of land mammal after the elephant.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.