New arrival: the baby white rhino. Photo: Western Plains Zoo
After a 14-month gestation period marred by illness, a white rhinoceros at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Mopani, has given birth to a male calf.
The zoo has described the birth on Tuesday morning as a great achievement in a year than has seen more than 300 wild rhinos killed, with an explosion in poaching.
Researchers predict if poaching continues at this level, it will outstrip wild births by 2015.
Senior White Rhino Keeper, Pascale Benoit, said the number of wild deaths combined with a disease that had killed rhinos in captivity made the birth more special.
“Everyone is just over the moon," Ms Benoit said.
"Especially given the tragic of the loss of four members of this herd to disease last year, and the plummeting numbers of all Rhino species in the wild."
Mopani contracted the disease last year while pregnant.
“Mopani is an amazing animal," Ms Benoit said.
"To come through that and give birth to this healthy calf is just remarkable."
Staff are yet to name the calf.
According to the International Rhino Foundation - of which Taronga is a founding member - African Rhinos are barely keeping pace with the unprecedented poaching crisis. Nearly 2000 Rhinos have been slaughtered across Africa since 2006, slowing population growth rates to some of the lowest levels in decades.
The increase in poaching has been driven by the increased value of Rhino horn, which is worth as much as gold. Demand for the horn is particularly high in south-east Asia, where some people still believe it has medicinal properties.
“This calf is not only an important birth for Taronga Western Plains Zoo, but for the species as a whole," Ms Benoit said. "Mopani had never bred before so to produce an offspring has created a new genetic line and greater genetic diversity within the White Rhino population throughout Australasia.”