A big rhino and a baby rhino.

Black rhino calf and mum Bakhita

Image: Rick Stevens

A black rhino calf born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, New South Wales, is cause to celebrate. It’s a precious addition to the family, as rhinos are critically endangered and face extinction due to poaching.

The rhino calf is doing well. “We’re really happy with the way he’s coming along,” says Andrew Clow, keeper at Taronga Zoo. “He’s growing really fast and getting more adventurous every day.”

At just over four weeks old, the calf is drinking mother’s milk at a rapid rate. “He barely goes five minutes without going back for another drink,” says Andrew.

“He has been chewing on leaves and hay, but we’re pretty sure he’s not swallowing it yet. He’s just copying his mum.”

Sadly, his species is in trouble. There are just over 4000 black rhinos left in the wild. Rhinos are killed for their horns and this year over 550 rhinos have been poached in South Africa alone.

Rhino horns are made of the same material as your fingernails and hair – keratin. That doesn’t stop some people using horn as an ingredient for medicine, even though it doesn’t work.

“A lot of people think that people just chop the horn off the rhino and release them, but that’s not correct. They shoot them first and collect the horn later.”

Black rhinos may soon become extinct in the wild, so every new calf is important. “I’d recommend everyone comes to see him before he gets too big,” says Andrew. “I don’t want to talk it up, but I’m quite prepared to say he’s the cutest little thing on the planet at the moment.”

The calf is in a private area at the moment and keepers are hoping to have the calf on display to the public by late June 2015. Keep an eye out on Taronga Western Plain Zoo website for details on when you can visit the new arrival.

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