Joy at rare rhino pregnancy at Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Park rangers are celebrating a rare black rhino pregnancy at Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster but they will have to put the champagne on ice till next Spring.
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The gestation period can last almost 16 months but the news has been greeted with global cheers as international conservation efforts continue to protect the endangered species.

Eastern Black Rhinos Najuma and Makibo were introduced at the award-winning park at Branton, near Doncaster, in 2018 as part of an International breeding programme to save the species and have been living at the three-acre Into Africa reserve.

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Rangers at the park noticed subtle behaviour changes in four-year-old female Najuma and early signs are that she is pregnant.

A rare rhino pregnacy has been announced at Yorkshire Wildlife ParkA rare rhino pregnacy has been announced at Yorkshire Wildlife Park
A rare rhino pregnacy has been announced at Yorkshire Wildlife Park

“It is fantastic news as black rhinos in the wild are critically endangered so they are in a lot of trouble out there,” said Kyrie Birkett, deputy team leader of the hoof stock section at the park, which is home to more than 400 animals from 70 rare and endangered species.

“There’s a lot of conservation work happening with black rhinos in the wild, so the breeding programme is really important for this species. Every individual is so vital.

“Najuma and Makibo were paired together after their compatibility was assessed. Rhinos can be very feisty but they get on really well together. There are some strong behavioural indicators that Najuma is pregnant and we’ll see more changes as the pregnancy develops.

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“We will be monitoring her weight quite closely and that will show us that she is having a healthy increase in weight, and if she gets later in the pregnancy we’ll start to see physical changes as well.”

The lengthy gestation period means staff will have to wait until 2024 before a baby rhino arrives and adds to the species’ recovery after its numbers declined by 96 per cent to 2,3000 between 1970 and 1992 because of poaching. Global conservation and anti-poaching efforts have helped numbers grow to more than 6,000 according to The African Rhino Specialist Group.

The Wildlife Foundation, based at the park, supports the European Breeding Programme and has funded a conservation initiative by Save the Rhino that is focused on boosting the population of all rhino species. It includes funding state-of-the-art radios and thermal imaging cameras to both protect the rangers and the rhinos in Kenya.

“We will be taking great care of Najuma who would be due around Spring next yea, and it will be the most exciting thing to have a baby rhino running around the paddocks,” added Ms Birktt.