Southern White Rhino Calf Born at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

A three-day-old male southern white rhino calf stayed close to his mother while exploring their habitat at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The little rhino—still learning to balance on his big feet—was born in the Safari Park’s East Africa field habitat on April 2, to mother, Holly, and father, Maoto (pronounced May-O-toe).

While all births of healthy rhinos are significant, researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research are optimistic this calf’s birth may be the result of a recent change in the southern white rhinoceros diet. San Diego Zoo Global scientists have been working to determine why southern white rhino females born in zoos—like Holly—tend not to bear offspring as often as their wild relatives. It was discovered that the animals may be sensitive to compounds called phytoestrogens found in soy and alfalfa, which are a component of the animals’ diets in zoos. On the basis of these findings, the nutritional services team at San Diego Zoo Global changed the diet of the southern white rhino. Since implementing the change, three females—two that had never successfully reproduced before, including Holly—became pregnant.

Keeping a sustainable population of rhinos outside of Africa is important for the species’ survival. The southern white rhino is classified as “near threatened,” due to poaching threats and illegal use of rhino horn. A rhino is poached every eight hours in South Africa. At this rate, the species could become extinct in 15 years. Holly’s calf is the 95th southern white rhino calf born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park since 1972. The rhino calf and mom can best be seen roaming their habitat from the Park’s Africa Tram Safari or a Caravan Safari.