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AWF Welcomes New Year Rhinos!

  • Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jessie's month-old calf remains healthy, strong, and safe from poachers thanks to Mosi-Oa-Tunya Park's Rhino Protection Team.

African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is pleased to announce the birth of two baby white rhinos in Mosi-Oa-Tunya Park in Zambia. Just over a year ago, AWF helped wildlife authorities settle four new white rhinos in the park after all but one of Zambia's rhinos were killed by poachers. The four new rhinos joined the sole survivor, a bull named Fwanya (or "rascal" in the local language).

AWF has since supplied ongoing field and technical support to the park team dedicated to keeping the rhinos safe.

"We are all very excited about the births and congratulate the Zambia Wildlife Authority on this conservation win," says AWF Ecologist Jones Masonde, who leads AWF's work with the Zambia Wildlife Authority's rhino protection team. "While celebrating this auspicious start to the New Year, we are cognizant of the dangers ahead and will do all we can to secure the future of the rhinos."

One of the larger cows named Jessie dropped a female calf on December 9. The smallest cow,Nelly, gave birth earlier this week to a calf which is also a female. Both calves appear strong and are thriving.

Both the cows and park personnel have their work cut out for them. Baby rhinos depend heavily on their mother's milk for as long as a year, and don't start eating grass until they are about three months old.The attentive cows must stay alert enough to keep both themselves and their charges out of harm's way. Relentlessly hunted for their horn, more than 300 rhinos have been felled in southern Africa alone in the past year. These slayings areespecially gutting the black rhino population, which today numbers only about 3,000 individuals across Africa. If the poaching continues, scientists fear the African black rhino could soon become extinct and pressure will shift onto the white rhinos.

"The recent wave of poaching is erasing decades of gains in rhino conservation efforts," says Philip Muruthi, senior director of Conservation Science at AWF. "The births of the white rhinos are a reminder that there is hope that together we can overcome the hunt for rhino horn that has resulted in hundreds of rhinos killed in a matter of months."

Both the cows and the babies recently born in Mos-Oa-Tunya Park are being heavily protected and kept out of sight of tourists until they are stronger. AWF is supporting those and other anti-poaching patrols in the Heartlands.

AWF has been a leader in international efforts to save the rhino. From stopping Yemen's illegal trade in rhino horn in the 1970s, to fighting for trade sanctions against Taiwan during the Clinton years, to establishing a rhino conservancy in Kenya and supporting rhino surveillance in East and southern Africa, AWF is committed to bringing rhinos back from the edge of extinction.

View photos of the baby rhinos on AWF's Facebook Page.

Support AWF's work in the Kazungula Heartland.

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