Keepers at Taronga Western Plains Zoo have marked World Rhino Day by announcing black rhino Bakhita was pregnant with her third calf.
The calf, due from the middle of October, will be yet another mark of the success of the zoo’s breeding program – about 80 per cent of black rhinos born under the International Rhinoceros Foundation (IRF)’s global breeding program have been born at Dubbo zoo.
It was welcome news on a day devoted to raising awareness about the plight of rhinos in the wild.
“There's five species of rhino left on earth and all of them are vulnerable to the threat of extinction,” the zoo’s acting director Nick Boyle said.
“Three of those five species are critically endangered and rhinos are such a big part of … the Dubbo region, so it's really important that we raise awareness about these beautiful species.”
With a rapid decline in black rhino numbers as result of the illegal rhino horn trade in Asia and habitat encroachment, Mr Boyle said every black rhino birth was important.
Rhino horn is believed to cure some ailments in Asia, but Mr Boyle said “there’s no scientific evidence to that whatsoever”.
“It’s also increasingly becoming a status symbol for some of the younger generations … so we really need to work with campaigns that are changing behaviour.
“The breeding program here … is a really critical part of the future of this species.”
The zoo also supports wildlife protection units in Africa and South East Asia. The IRF’s eventual goal is to eradicate illegal poaching of rhinos, and to return rhinos bred in captivity to the wild.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo will be marking World Rhino Day this weekend with extra keeper talks. It’s the only zoo in Australia to have three species of rhino: the black rhino, white rhino and greater one-horned (or Indian) rhino.