An Extraordinary Birth

On July 28, 2019, SDZG was excited to announce the historic birth of a southern white rhino calf at the Safari Park—the first rhino born following hormone-induced ovulation and artificial insemination. The mother, Victoria, gave birth to a healthy male calf in the barn at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center. Animal care staff on hand to witness the birth reported Victoria did extremely well and remained calm during the 30-minute labor. The calf, who was named Edward, was up on his feet and nursing well within an hour. This was the first successful artificial insemination birth of a southern white rhino in North America.

Edward’s birth was also a first critical step in the ongoing work to develop the scientific knowledge required to genetically recover the northern white rhino, a distant subspecies of the southern white rhino. Only two northern white rhinos remained on Earth, both females that were past reproduction. The only hope was to develop the process and protocols of artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization of frozen and thawed northern white rhino eggs and sperm, and a southern white rhino successfully acting as a surrogate to carry and raise a calf. None of this science had been tried with rhinos before, and there was a long way to go in developing the procedures. Edward’s birth showed that artificial insemination was possible with rhinos, an important first step.

2019

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