An almost 7-week-old greater one-horned rhino calf and her mother charged into their expansive Asian Savanna field exhibit together for the first time, earlier today (Aug. 8, 2018) at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The female calf, named Carole, and her mother, Asha, emerged from a protected area called a boma, where they have been staying since the calf’s birth on June 22. The pair’s one-on-one time in the boma gave them a chance to properly bond before interacting with other wildlife in their 40-acre habitat. While the calf ran around exploring her new surroundings, a layer of young, pink skin was still visible underneath the folds of her thickening, armor-like, dark gray top layer of skin.
Mother and her brave little offspring exited the boma and headed straight for a mud wallow. The calf confidently followed mom into the cool water for a dip, before heading out to explore more of the field. On their stroll, they encountered Safari Park arborists trimming a tree and enjoyed some fresh ficus leaves while Carole met other animals in their habitat, including gaur and nilgai. They continued surveying the hilly terrain, and then headed back to the wallow for more pool time.
The greater one-horned rhinoceros was once widespread in Southeast Asia, but it is now found only in India and Nepal. It differs from other rhino species, as it has an armor-plated appearance—but that “armor” is actually a layer of skin that has many folds. The greater one-horned rhino is listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, primarily due to habitat loss, poaching threats and illegal traffic in rhino horn. There are an estimated 3,500 greater one-horned rhinos remaining in the wild, with over 70 percent of the population living in one reserve: Kaziranga National Park in India.
Rhinos are very important to the ecosystems in which they reside. Greater one-horned rhinos live in humid, swampy, tall-grass habitats. These large herbivores graze on the grass, which helps to maintain the habitat—increasing plant diversity and providing grazing areas for other animals. Rhinos digest large volumes of plant material and disperse the seeds in their dung, thus playing an important role in the health and maintenance of vegetation in their habitat. As rhinos disappear from their habitats, their absence impacts other species, such as birds, reptiles, mammals and plants.
San Diego Zoo Global has been working for more than 40 years, along with other accredited zoos, to keep a sustainable population of rhinos safe under human care while working to protect them in sanctuaries in the wild. Carole is the 72nd greater one-horned rhino born at the Safari Park since 1975, making the Park the foremost breeding facility in the world for this species.