Keepers and staff at Howletts Wild Animal Park, one of Kent’s most popular visitor attractions, have been celebrating as the first baby rhino to be born in the park’s 40 year history makes his public debut.
Animal Director, Neil Spooner said: ‘We are absolutely delighted. This rhino calf is particularly significant for Howletts, because he’s the first to be born here at Howletts in our 40 year history. More importantly, his arrival means hope for the future of this critically endangered species. The birth went very well for both mum and her calf.’
The young calf, born on 1st October to first time mother – Damara, is reported to be doing well and has already briefly ventured outside into his paddock. Keepers have reported that although he is starting to explore, his mother is being very cautious and encourages the youngster back to the safety of the rhino house, after short periods of time.
Helen Rhodes, Hoofstock Keeper added: ‘We’ve been letting Damara and her baby out very early in the morning, before the park opens to the public, for the last few days. This is Damara’s first calf and she has a typical black rhino temperament, which means she is extremely protective, so we wanted to take things slowly and calmly, before formally introducing the little one to the general public. It’s wonderful to see him exploring his surroundings. He’s certainly full of beans and loves charging around, although he doesn’t leave mum’s side for long. It’s been a long wait but I’m delighted that he’s finally here. It’s fingers crossed for fine weather over the half term period, so that visitors will be able to see the calf during the school holiday.’
Listed as Critically Endangered, black rhino numbers in the wild have been decimated by poachers, who sell rhino horn to the Asian market, where it is believed to have medicinal properties.
The Aspinall Foundation, a leading conservation charity, working with Howletts and sister park Port Lympne has been working to protect black rhino since 1971 and has returned black rhino, born at the parks, to protected areas in Africa, in the hope of saving the species.
Howletts latest arrival, firmly cements the conservation charity’s reputation as being the most successful breeders of black rhino in the UK, with a staggering total of 35 births to date.