Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster is celebrating the first birth in the park’s history of a critically endangered black rhino calf, one of the rarest mammals on earth.

Mum Najuma, seven, was pregnant for 15 months before giving birth on 16th January, an event of great significance as international conservation efforts continue to protect the species both through the efforts of zoos and wildlife parks and in the wild.

The male calf, who already weighs 73 kilos,  has spent his first few weeks in the rhino house under the watchful gaze of Najuma who is an excellent new mother.

Rangers decided the time was right for him to explore the outdoor reserve as he has grown stronger and increasingly lively over the past week.

The expansive reserve was a big place for a small rhino calf and he stayed close to his mother as they went on an exploratory trot around to the delight of watching animal staff. 

Both Najuma and dad Makibo, eight, joined YWP in 2018 as part of an international breeding programme to save the species, which is classed as critically endangered.

Najuma first began showing early signs of pregnancy over a year ago and rangers continually monitored her.

Gestation usually lasts between 15-16 months.

Director of Animals Dr Charlotte MacDonald said: ”This very special birth is fantastic news for everyone here at YWP.

“The news is particularly important because Rhinos are a critically endangered species. The International Breeding Programme is very important for this species.

 “Every birth is a milestone in our global conservation efforts. The aim is to ensure we are in a position to increase re-introductions into the wild.

“The newborn calf is becoming such a character and bound to become a visitor favourite.”

YWP’s ‘Into Africa!’ is now home to four Black Rhinos, who roam the three-acre reserve. 

Eastern Black Rhinos are the rarest of the three remaining subspecies. Between 1970 and 1992, their population declined by 96 per cent to 2,300 from a period of poaching for their horns.

Thanks to global conservation efforts, Black Rhino numbers have steadily risen to around 6,000 individuals.

The European Breeding Programme currently holds around 100 individuals in various wildlife parks and zoos.

The Wildlife Foundation, a charity based at YWP, has worked closely with Save the Rhino International and Fauna and Flora International funding projects protecting them from poachers and preserving their habitat.

Visitors to the park have donated thousands to the Wildlife Foundation to support its vital conservation and welfare work.

Dr. McDonald added: ‘We are proud of all the work that YWP and the Wildlife Foundation have done to support this wonderful species.’

“We are very excited to follow the growth of the latest addition to our Rhino family.”

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