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This rhino calf born to ‘Indian parents’ is the new attraction in Canada Zoo

The newborn at the Toronto Zoo weighs in at approximately 63 kg but that’s a “good weight” for his species - the vulnerable greater one-horned or Indian rhinoceros.

world Updated: Jan 09, 2018 21:28 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times, Toronto
Toronto Zoo,Indian rhinoceros,greater one-horned rhinoceros
The newborn Indian rhino calf nursing at the Toronto Zoo.(Courtesy: Toronto Zoo)

His carers describe him as a “a healthy, bouncing baby boy”. The arrival of a newborn of Indian-origin in Toronto at the beginning of the New Year has certainly brought joy to the city.

The infant weighs in at approximately 63 kg but that’s a “good weight” for his species - the greater one-horned or Indian rhinoceros.

The birth of this male calf on January 4 marked the first birth at the Toronto Zoo in 2018. The mother and child are “both doing amazing”, according to the zoo’s curator of mammals Maria Franke.

“It’s a healthy, bouncing baby boy. We didn’t get our hands on it the first day because we wanted to make sure that the bond between mother and calf is very strong. But then we processed the baby a couple of days after birth and he’s approximately 63 kg,” she said.

The calf has yet to be named, and there may even be a contest for that. His mother is 13-year-old Ashakiran, called Asha by the zoo’s keepers. While Asha was born at Buffalo Zoo in New York State, the calf’s father Vishnu, 14, was born at Bronx Zoo in New York City. This is Asha’s second surviving calf, joining Nandu, who was born in 2016.

“Toronto Zoo is part of the North American Species Survival Plan. The whole purpose of that is we collectively work together and move animals around for breeding purposes so that we have a really healthy genetic population,” Franke said.

Watch: Newborn Indian rhino calf nursing at the Toronto Zoo

The greater one-horned rhinoceros is endemic to India, found mainly in Assam, and the species’ survival is still under threat despite improvements in recent times, so every new birth is cause for celebration.

As Franke said, “They’re classified as vulnerable. They were previously classified as endangered but with a lot of effort for protection of the wild population, establishing more wild habitats for them, their population has rebounded. But still, there’s only approximately 3,500 left in the wild so it’s quite precarious.

“The biggest concern with the one-horned is that 70% of their population is in one area, the Kaziranga National Park. Because of that, if there’s any natural catastrophe like flooding or a disease hits that population, that could possibly wipe out over two-quarters of the world’s population. So they’re definitely not out of the woods, that’s for sure.”

At this time, the calf is still nursing and the zoo’s keepers are focused on ensuring a strong bond between him and Asha before he makes his debut public appearance, which Franke says will be “sooner than later” in the indoor public viewing area for these mighty animals.

Nandu was an attraction when he was born and this arrival will add to the draw, as Franke said, “I’m sure the people and the community are going to love to come and see Asha and her two calves.”

But that serves a more important purpose as well. “The birth of this little calf is very important because one of our primary goals is to educate the public about the threats that face these species in the wild and that we have to work together to eliminate or decrease these threats,” Franke said.

First Published: Jan 09, 2018 19:25 IST