GLEN ROSE (CBSDFW.COM) – There’s a new baby in the house at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose!
And, yes, he has a face that only a mother could love—or at least she should have. But, instead the first time mother rejected the calf—so staffers stepped in.
“He’s at that age, kind of like toddlers, always getting into trouble,” says associate veterinarian Julie Swenson, DVM, DACZM.
Swenson says it became apparent early that the mother rhino had no interest in parenting, so after a couple of attempts, they removed the 140 pound newborn for his own safety. “The one thing that helped in this case, this guy didn’t know what normal was: he just had that natural urge to suckle, something… when you present that animal with a bottle, they’ll latch on to it right away, which is what he did.”
In just five weeks, the as yet unnamed white rhino has more than doubled his weight—not surprising, considering how much he eats.
“We are now feeding 6 gallons of formula a day…five separate feedings,” says Swenson, “and he swallows that milk down in a matter of two to three minutes.”
According to Swenson, the decision to bottle raise an animal is not done lightly.
“If we have a choice, we want nature to raise him because the best case scenario is for him to be raised by the mother,” says Swenson.
To bottle raise is time consuming for the staff—and costly. Formula for the 15 months that the baby rhino will bottle feed will run roughly $11,000. “We want Mom to take care of them if they will.”
The baby will eventually be introduced to the rest of the herd. No word, yet, on when he will be on display; but, it will likely be several months from now. Staffers plan to hold a contest to name the white rhino that will eventually weigh between 5,000 and 7,000 pounds. Not exactly cute and cuddly at that point—but, still critical to the species’ survival.
“It’s a tragic situation,” says Patrick Condy, D.Sc., Fossil Rim’s executive director. Dr. Condy says the white rhino in the past century fought its way back from extinction; but, is now threatened again. He says between 1500-2000 animals are being poached in the animal’s native South Africa every year.
“If the poaching carries on the way it’s been the last half dozen years, its only going to be a year or two or three from here where it’s probably going to get on the endangered list.”
Thus animals like the baby rhino (and his mother) that are being bred and raised in captivity are being called ‘insurance populations.’
“The idea is that if something happens and we can’t stop the poaching epidemic fast enough and we do lose their species, we have the option of reintroducing these animals back into the wild from these captive animals that we have here,” says Swenson.
And while the boisterous baby rhino is just a whole lot of fun, his survival is critical.
“Every success is important,” says Dr. Condy, “every success is important.”
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