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News / Life / Pets & Wildlife

Rare southern white rhino born at Zoo Atlanta

Christmas-Eve baby, mother doing well, zoo reports

By Cassidy Alexander, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published: December 29, 2023, 6:19am

ATLANTA — Zoo Atlanta received a rather large delivery on Christmas Eve: a southern white rhinoceros calf.

Mother Kiazi and her newborn are both doing well, the zoo announced Monday.

Only one other rhino calf — an eastern black rhino born in 2013 — has been born at the zoo in its 134 years.

“The Zoo Atlanta family is beyond excited about the birth of Kiazi’s calf. This birth has been long-awaited news for many months. We have had many exciting developments in our rhino population over the past year,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO, in a news release Monday.

Southern white rhinos are the largest of the five rhino species, with newborns weighing 100 to 150 pounds at birth. White rhino pregnancies are also among the animal kingdom’s longest, averaging anywhere between 16 and 18 months.

The Animal Care and Veterinary Teams at Zoo Atlanta first detected Kiazi’s pregnancy in the spring.

The species is classified as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Southern white rhinos are especially vulnerable because they often travel in herds in the wild, making them easy targets for poachers who want their horns.

Southern white rhinos are not actually white, despite their name. The moniker is believed to have originated with the Afrikaans word wyd, meaning “wide” — a reference to the shape of white rhinos’ upper lips.

Kiazi, 22, has previously given birth to two living offspring at another organization prior to coming to Zoo Atlanta in 2021. The calf is the first offspring for Mumbles, the 12-year-old father. The pair was recommended to breed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ White Rhino Species Survival Plan, which seeks to maintain healthy, genetically diverse and self-sustaining animal populations in professional human care.

“All rhino species are currently in peril, and as stewards of this brand-new ambassador here in Atlanta, we also have a responsibility to do all we can to raise awareness of the status of wild rhinos,” King stated. “If there is a special connection that our members and guests can make with Kiazi and her calf, this is a connection that can translate to conservation action.”

Zoo Atlanta has been expanding its white rhino family. In October 2023, they welcomed 17-year-old female Dakari.

Kiazi is providing appropriate maternal care and the calf seems healthy and strong, Zoo Atlanta reported Monday. The two will have an opportunity to continue to bond behind the scenes before entering the rhino habitat.