Celebrating the birth of a white rhino

LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA—African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is celebrating the birth of a white rhino in Zambia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, a major conservation milestone in a region devastated by rampant rhino poaching.

Less than three years ago, poachers had killed all but one of Zambia’s rhinos, and AWF assisted Zambia Wildlife Authority in relocating four white rhinos to the park. AWF has also provided ongoing field and technical support to the park to keep the rhinos safe. This birth marks the third since that relocation, bringing the park’s rhino population to 8.

“The birth of one white rhino may not be considered significant, but rhinos have a long gestation and nursing period and only birth a calf once every two to four years,” explains AWF Ecologist Jones Masonde, who leads AWF’s rhino conservation work with Zambia Wildlife Authority. “With such a low birthing rate and with the continued rhino poaching epidemic in southern Africa especially, this birth is actually a very big deal.”

Rhino poaching has reached unprecedented levels in Africa, with 448 being killed throughout the continent in 2011. Rhinos are being targeted for their horn, which some Asian cultures prize for their mythical medicinal properties. (Rhino horn has been proven by scientists to be made of keratin, the same protein found in human hair and nails, and in reality carries no such capabilities.) Already in 2012, more than 80 have been poached, the majority from South Africa.

“This achievement shows that the support that African Wildlife Foundation provides makes a real difference in assisting wildlife authorities’ rhino conservation work,” adds Masonde. “It also offers all of us hope that we might be able to bring the rhino ‘charging back’ from the brink of extinction.”

The calf was born on February 18, 2012, to a cow named Inonge. The father is Fwanya, who was the last rhino in Mosi-oa-Tunya prior to the addition of the four cows in 2009.

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About African Wildlife Foundation   For more than 50 years, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has worked as a leading conservation organization focused solely on the African continent. AWF’s programs and conservation strategies are based on sound science and designed to protect both the wild lands and wildlife of Africa and ensure a more sustainable future for Africa’s people. Since its inception, AWF has protected endangered species and land, promoted partnerships with the private sector for conservation tourism to benefit local African communities as a means to improve livelihoods, and trained hundreds of African nationals in conservation—all to ensure the survival of Africa’s unparalleled wildlife heritage. AWF is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Kenya and registered as a 501(c)(3) in the United States. www.awf.org

Contacts:   African Wildlife Foundation   John Butler jbutler@awf.org

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