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White Rhino born at the Toronto Zoo – Watch video!


TORONTO, ON, Friday December 29, 2023: Sometimes the best gifts come following the holiday season!  In the case of your Toronto Zoo, they delivered an extra special one: a white rhino calf!

At 7:58 am on Thursday, December 28th, your Toronto Zoo was thrilled to welcome white rhino Sabi’s first calf to its Zoo family!

Sabi arrived in Toronto in 2012

While every rhino pregnancy is exciting, Sabi’s was especially so. Following her arrival in Toronto in 2012, hormone monitoring performed by our Reproductive Science team identified that Sabi exhibited “long” estrus cycles (~70 days in length, compared to the typical ~30 days of fertile females), which have made conception a significant challenge for her. Following continual adjustments in daily care and diet, Sabi’s behaviour in spring 2022 suggested that her hormonal cycles had switched from the long cycles to the typical cycle length. The likelihood of successfully conceiving for the first time drops with age in many species, including white rhinos, and Zoo staff were keenly aware of this with Sabi.

White rhino calf born at Toronto Zoo, December 28, 2023

Your Toronto Zoo Wildlife Care and Reproductive Science teams were thrilled that the breeding introductions with white rhino male Tom in summer 2022 were successful. This is the second calf sired by the 15-year-old rhino. His first calf, Theo, was born December 24, 2017, and left Toronto in late 2021.

“As we’ve learned in many species, successful reproduction is dependent on optimal animal health and well-being” says Dr. Gabriela Mastromonaco, Senior Director of Wildlife Science, Toronto Zoo. “With fertility challenges being a significant concern for conservation breeding programs, your Toronto Zoo focuses on a holistic approach to well-being that brings together our wildlife care and science teams to develop treatment plans that support individual animal needs. We are excited to see our teams’ efforts rewarded with the new addition to our rhino family.” 

A few hours of labour

Sabi’s calf came into the world following a few hours of labour. It was around midnight when Sabi’s Wildlife Care team began noticing her walking and rolling around. When keepers checked on her in the early hours of the morning, more fluid had been discharged and her water officially broke, culminating with a successful delivery at 7:58am.

With thanks to her Veterinary team, alongside Wildlife Care, Sabi is doing very well as a first-time mother and can be seen keeping a very watchful eye on her little calf, by licking him and keeping him clean. The calf is a male, and the Wildlife Health team will also be providing a full health check in the days to come.

Gestation period

A white rhino’s gestation period lasts approximately 16 months. Sabi’s dedicated Wildlife Care team worked with her and trained her to participate in voluntary ultrasound examinations, which allowed our team to confirm the pregnancy and monitor the calf’s early development. Given Sabi’s challenges with conceiving, and those associated with a first pregnancy, we kept the news of her pregnancy under wraps until she reached the beginning of her third trimester.

“It’s amazing to be working with such a passionate and dedicated team and having the opportunity to share Sabi’s story” says Dolf DeJong, CEO, Toronto Zoo. “Staff have been working overnight shifts to make sure someone was always with Sabi through the later stages of her pregnancy. They’ve been “baby-proofing” the habitat and the veterinarian team have been keeping a very close eye on her, particularly over the last few months to ensure we did everything possible to help bring a healthy calf into the world. We’ll be giving Sabi and her calf lots of space to bond, and we know our community will be here showing their support when the baby is viewable, likely this spring.”

A birth at your Toronto Zoo is always an exciting time for our team and our community of supporters, but importantly, it also helps secure the sustainability of rhino populations under human care. White rhinos in the wild are listed as Near Threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. There are fewer than 16,000 left in the wild, with numbers currently declining due to habitat loss and the continued increase in poaching for their horn for the illegal wildlife trade.

 Wilding Rhino Conservation Fund

In honour of this significant birth, the Toronto Zoo Wildlife Conservancy has created the Wilding Rhino Conservation Fund to support organizations like the International Rhino Foundation and the critical work organizations like these do to protect wild rhino populations. This fund will further your Toronto Zoo’s conservation impact worldwide, with 100% of funds raised supporting white rhino conservation projects in the wild (“in-situ”). Donate today: www.wildlifeconservancy.ca/baby.

You can also support your Toronto Zoo’s growing white rhino family by giving them the gift of enrichment this holiday season: www.tzwcadopt.ca/pages/white-rhinos.

Other articles from totimes.ca – otttimes.ca – mtltimes.ca

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