Two greater one-horned rhino calves, along with their mothers, bravely entered the expansive Asian Savanna habitat for the first time, (May 20, 2020) at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Mother rhinos Asha and Tanaya gave birth to their calves a little over two weeks apart—on March 25 and April 11, respectively. Both mom-and-calf pairs have enjoyed plenty of private time bonding before interacting with other wildlife on the savanna.
Tanaya and her female calf, which has not yet been named, were the first to emerge from their private time together. The little calf boldly followed her protective mom over to one of her favorite spots—a mud wallow—where they both took a cool dip. The calf, which never ventured more than a few feet from her mom, appeared to enjoy the water before heading out to explore more of the savanna. There, she met a herd of blackbuck antelope, as well as other animals that share the 40-acre expanse with the greater one-horned rhinos.
Asha and her male calf, named Arjun (a Hindi name with several meanings, including confidence and power), were next to venture out onto the savanna. The doting mom cautiously led her calf, exploring the hills and grassy areas. The little calf, who appeared to get bolder by the minute, ventured several feet away from his mom—but when he came face-to-face with a Javan bantang, Arjun promptly ”hoofed” it back to his mother’s side. After exploring, the mom-and-calf pair also cooled off in a mud wallow.
“It’s great to see Asha and Tanaya introducing their calves to other wildlife for the first time,” said Jillian King, senior wildlife care specialist, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Everything is new to the calves right now, so it will be interesting to watch them explore. We will keep a watchful eye on them, and look forward to them meeting more of the wildlife on the savanna soon.”
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. While the two calves explored, a layer of young, pink skin could be spied underneath the folds of their thickening, dark gray top layer of skin.
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. These recent births represent the 74th and 75th greater one-horned rhinos born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park since 1975, making the Safari Park the most successful conservation organization at increasing the population of this animal in the world.
Every day—especially now, during the Safari Park closure due to COVID-19—San Diego Zoo Global is grateful to the donors, members and general public who support the organization’s conservation goals. This support allows both the Zoo and Safari Park to continue caring for wildlife, including the two new rhino calves. Recognizing that Zoo and Safari Park members have not been able to visit during the closure, memberships that were active as of March 16, 2020, will automatically receive an extension when the Zoo and Safari Park reopen that matches the entire duration of the closure. Visit SanDiegoZoo.org for more information on membership extension, and to stay updated on additional offerings to stay connected to wildlife from San Diego Zoo Global.
At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, more than one million guests each year see animals in herds of mixed species in expansive habitats. Safari tours offer savanna views of African and Asian animals, and trails take visitors to experience Australian and North American habitats, plus opportunities for up-close encounters and unique behind-the-scenes perspectives. Known for its leadership in rhino conservation, the Safari Park is home to the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center, which is devoted to groundbreaking work to bring back the northern white rhino. As visitors discover the rare and endangered species at the Safari Park, they are directly contributing, through admissions and on-grounds sales, to the efforts of San Diego Zoo Global, an international nonprofit conservation organization that works to fight extinction through recovery efforts for plants and animals worldwide. To learn more, visit SDZSafariPark.org, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube.