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The Chester Zoo has welcomed a new addition to their animal family!
A critically endangered baby eastern black rhino was born at the England-based zoo last month on Oct. 29, the zoo announced in a statement last week.
The newborn female calf was delivered safely by her mother, Ema Elsa, following a 15-month-long pregnancy. The young animal’s birth was captured on the zoo’s cameras and shows the creature on her feet and feeding from her mother within 10 minutes after being born.
Conservationists at the zoo say the arrival of the new addition will be “celebrated globally” as “fewer than 1,000 [eastern black rhinos] now remain on the planet,” per the release. The occasion also marks the twelfth eastern black rhino calf to have been born at the zoo in the last 20 years.
Andrew McKenzie, the team manager of rhinos at the Chester Zoo, described the birth as a “very special” moment.
“The birth of a critically endangered eastern black rhino is always very special,” he said. “And to be able to watch on camera as a calf is born is an incredible privilege – with rhino numbers so, so low it, sadly, isn’t something that’s captured very often.”
“Seeing the little one then get to her feet with a gentle nudge from mum; take her first tentative steps and suckle for the first time is then the icing on the cake,” he continued. “It really is heart-warming stuff.”
Adding that the entire team at the zoo is “overjoyed,” McKenzie noted that the mother rhino and her baby “have bonded wonderfully and have been showing us all of the right signs.”
“These rhinos have been pushed to the very edge of existence and every single addition to the European endangered species breeding program is celebrated globally,” he shared. “It’s sadly no exaggeration to say that it’s entirely possible that we could lose them forever within our lifetime and the world’s most progressive zoos are very much part of the fight to prevent their extinction.”
McKenzie added: “In the short term, Ema Elsa and her new baby will help to highlight the perilous position that this species is in and we hope they encourage more people to join the fight to prevent the extinction of these gentle giants. In the future, as we work to ensure more safe areas, we hope Ema and her offspring, like others before them born into the European breeding program, are one day able to make the journey back to Africa.”
This rhino population in zoos across Europe is “vital to the long-term future of the species, with several rhinos born as a result of the carefully coordinated breeding program between European zoos having been introduced to Africa to boost wild populations,” the release adds.
In the wild, the eastern black rhino is now only found in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, and is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered.
Chester Zoo is also asking fans to help select a name for the baby rhino. The zoo’s Facebook followers can take part in a poll to choose between Kasulu, Koshi and Kaari as the new baby’s name.