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Baby white rhino born at Safari West

The Southern white rhinoceros calf born at Safari West
Nikki Smith, Animal Care Giver
Safari West
The Southern white rhinoceros calf born at Safari West

Eesha — a female Southern white rhinoceros — arrived at Safari West in Santa Rosa in 2008. But despite the efforts of the park’s staff, Eesha didn’t show much interest in breeding until very recently.

Keo Hornbostel, the park’s Executive Director, told KALW Eesha seemed to view one potential mate as a brother, and another just didn’t work out. Then, in 2021, the park acquired a new male named Ongava.

“And it was like love at first sight. Although it’s not a fairy tale love story because rhino’s courtships are ferociously violent,” says Hornbostel.

Eesha and Ongava mated, and after 17 months of gestation, Eesha gave birth to a calf on Sunday.

Erika Defer, the Director of Research at Safari West, says that the whole process — from mating to birth — has provided a wealth of opportunities to conduct research. In particular, the staff monitored Eesha’s body temperature throughout her pregnancy.

“Which is really exciting because anecdotally we found some pretty significant changes in heat signatures through that research,” says Defer.

Information obtained from Eesha’s pregnancy could improve care for other rhinos in captivity — and potentially help conservationists identify pregnant rhinos in the wild and strategize accordingly.

Andrew is a scientist and communicator who wants to make scientific research accessible to everyone and to ensure that science is discussed accurately and responsibly.