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You are in: Devon > Rhino conservation > Calf finds its feet!

Sita and baby - photo by Jason Knight

Sita and baby aged 2 days (Jason Knight)

Calf finds its feet!

After a shaky start, Sita the rare black rhino and her calf are getting on famously at Paignton Zoo.

After a 15-month pregnancy - and in the full glare of the watching world - Sita the Paignton Zoo black rhino has given birth to a calf.

Sita started going into labour at around 7.40pm GMT on Monday 5 March, and the baby emerged around half an hour later.

The amazing scenes were watched by thousands of people all over the world, using the webcam on the BBC Devon website.

Rhino-watchers have been keeping watch on Sita day and night for weeks.

Sita paced around her den restlessly in the hours leading up to the birth, giving an indication the big moment was imminent.

The calf soon after it was born

The calf soon after it was born

Sure enough, at 8.10pm, the calf appeared. After a shaky start the baby girl is doing well. And it's a very special little girl because 75 per cent of black rhinos born in captivity are male.

It took her over five hours to find her feet and a further hour to take her first feed from her mum.

At around 1am on Tuesday keepers at Paignton Zoo had to coax Sita to a safe area away from her calf so they could get into the enclosure to take a closer look.

After checking the calf was healthy they were able to move her to a newly laid bed of straw.

Neil Bemment, head of mammals at Paignton Zoo, said: "We're really pleased we've had a successful birth.

"Everything seems to have gone smoothly. Sita was a little bewildered by the new arrival.

"The calf wasn't in any hurry to get up, and in the end we had to go into the enclosure and give it a helping hand.

"As soon as the calf got to its feet Sita started showing more interest." At birth the calf will have weighed around 40 kilos (80 pounds).

Head rhino keeper, Jason Knight, said it was a long and anxious wait before the young rhino took its first steps.

"We were hoping to see it get up in the first few hours because the calf needs to get to mum to feed.

First contact between mother and baby

First contact between mother and baby

"Sita had crashed out and was exhausted, but it all came good in the end.

"At the moment everything is fine, we are looking at this gorgeous creature."

Mr Bemment added: "Sita was exhausted after her labours and we were relieved when she allowed the calf to suckle for the first time.

"The enclosure has a heated floor so the calf is very snug.

"We have waited for this moment for so many years – and now Sita looks like she is going to be a model mum!"

Black rhinos are among the most endangered species in the world and are listed as critically endangered. The population dropped by more than 90% between 1970 and the mid 1990s when it reached a low of around 2,400.

There are now thought to be no more than 3,100 scattered through east and southern Africa. Paignton Zoo, a registered charity, is one of only four zoos in the UK with black rhinos and supports practical rhino conservation work in Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Zoo spokesperson Phil Knowling said: "Sita has become an internet star. I think it has helped to raise awareness for rhino conservation and increased people's understanding of how zoos work to breed rare species.

"I'd like to thank everyone who has been following Sita's progress and who has sent messages of good will and support. It has been a long wait but it has been worth it!"

Check the video  footage and post your messages using the links on this page.

Please note: The webcam was decommissioned on Monday 26 March 2007 and you can you can no longer view daily updates. 

last updated: 31/01/2008 at 10:04
created: 05/03/2007

You are in: Devon > Rhino conservation > Calf finds its feet!

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