Image: © Zoos Victoria
The Animal Facts Editorial Team
March 25, 2023 9:45 am
Werribee, Victoria, Australia
Werribee Open Range Zoo have announced that their southern white rhinoceros calf born on March 21st has passed away after succumbing to internal injuries sustained soon after birth. Soon after midnight on Saturday the calf suffered a neurological episode and soon after went in to cardiac arrest. Despite efforts by vets they were unable to revive her.
Werribee Open Range Zoo Director Mark Pilgrim said staff were devastated but had done an excellent job in caring for the newborn during these first critical days.
“The death of any animal is challenging for all involved, but we can find comfort in the knowledge that every action was taken to ensure the calf was receiving the best care possible,” Dr Pilgrim said.
A necropsy (animal autopsy) performed by Melbourne University confirmed the calf had a broken scapula caused by interactions with its mother soon after birth. It is thought this injury caused blood clots which eventually led to the neurological symptoms exhibited soon before death. Further tests have been conducted to confirm this.
“We know this news will bring sadness to our zoo community, and our kind thoughts are with them and all who cared for this precious calf, and particularly with our vet and keeping teams who worked tirelessly to care for the calf over the past five days,” added Mark.
Werribee Open Range Zoo are celebrating the birth of their first southern white rhinoceros calf in almost a decade but it has been a difficult welcome to the world for the calf. Mother Kipenzi welcomed her calf at 4am on Tuesday March 21st.
Soon after the birth keepers did not note any signs of healthy bonding. With the calf not thriving in the hours after the birth it was decided by keepers and vets that the calf should be taken to the zoo's vet clinic where it underwent a medical exam and was given supplementary feed.
Werribee Open Range Zoo Director Dr Mark Pilgrim said the calf is being provided with around-the-clock feeds of colostrum obtained from its mother. Colostrum is a specialized milk produced soon after the birth of a mammal which provides essential antibodies to the calf.
“The calf’s health has begun to improve, and it is now in the process of being reintroduced to mum,” Dr Pilgrim said. “However, it will continue to remain under veterinary care during these critical early days.
Keepers are also keeping a close eye on Kipenzi to see how she is coping following the birth. She is being reunited with her calf and keepers continue to monitor how they are bonding.
Kipenzi was paired with male Kifaru at Werribee Open Range Zoo during 2019 in hopes they would welcome a calf. It had been almost a decade since the zoo had welcomed a southern white rhinoceros. The individuals housed at the zoo are part of an Australia wide breeding effort to secure a future for this threatened species which the IUCN list as near threatened. An estimated 10,800 remain in Africa as a result of hunting for their horn which is used in traditional medicines.
Dr Pilgrim said Werribee Open Range Zoo team was delighted to welcome the beautiful rhino calf to the family. “The arrival of this precious calf is an important achievement in the fight to save the species from extinction, and we are excited that visitors will be able to view the pair once we have navigated these typically high-risk early days following the birth,” he said.
Zoos Victoria (the operators of Werribee Open Range Zoo) will give their members the opportunity to vote on a name for the calf in the coming weeks.
White rhinoceros are social animals living in groups known as a crash. Just before the female gives birth to her calf she will leave the crash and find a safe space where she can give birth.
Image: © Zoos Victoria
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