Critically endangered black rhino baby born in UK wildlife park

A black rhino baby has been born in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.

One of the rarest mammals in the world, the calf is the first black rhino to be born at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park (YWP).

The three-week-old, who already weighs 11st 7lbs, was born in January and spent his first few weeks in the rhino house with his mother, Najuma.

But now park rangers have decided to let him out into the three-acre Into Africa! reserve, where he has stayed close to his mother during his first time outdoors.

Seven-year-old Najuma was pregnant for 15 months before giving birth, with YWP describing the arrival as an event of "great significance".

Both Najuma and father Makibo, eight, came to YWP in 2018 as part of an international breeding programme to save the critically endangered species.

Hoofstock Ranger Beth Phelan said: "His mum is probably the biggest eater in the house, in terms of rhinos, and he's picked that up immediately.

"He's a bit like a toddler - anything that's edible he will put in his mouth, even though he can't eat it, even though he's got no teeth yet, he's trying this out."

She said: "He is incredibly energetic, just like his mum.

"Obviously, she'll be getting in a lot more sleep at the moment - with feeding him and looking after him - than she normally would.

"But, when she is sleeping, generally that's the time he's running round the pen, he's jumping on her, trying to wake her up, bothering her."

YWP director of animals Charlotte MacDonald said: "The newborn calf is becoming such a character and bound to become a visitor favourite."

Dr 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."

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Eastern Black Rhinos are the rarest of the three remaining subspecies, after their population nosedived by 96% between 1970 and 1992 to 2,300, largely due to poaching for their horns.

However, thanks to global conservation efforts, their numbers have now swelled to around 6,000.

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

Visitors to the park have donated thousands of pounds to the Wildlife Foundation, a charity based at YWP which works closely with Save the Rhino International and Fauna and Flora International funding projects protecting the animals from poachers and preserving their habitat.