Visitors at Chester Zoo witnessed a surprise arrival when a rare rhino calf was born in front of them.
Rhino births usually happen at night or in the early hours of the morning, but 12-year-old eastern black rhino Malindi went into labour in the middle of the day on Tuesday.
Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals at the zoo, said: “Visitors to the zoo were treated to something incredibly special when eastern black rhino Malindi went into labour in front of them.
“With just 650 eastern black rhino left in the wild, seeing the birth of a new calf and its very first steps is a very rare and special event indeed.
“The newborn was delivered on to soft wood mulch and within next to no time it was up on its feet and running around – it couldn’t have gone any smoother.
“Although it’s still very early days, the little one is showing great signs by feeding regularly and mum and calf appear to have bonded very quickly.”
Their low numbers in the wild are a result of the illegal wildlife trade, driven by increasing demand for rhino horn, which currently changes hands for more than gold and drugs in the traditional Asian medicine market.
Mike Jordan, collections director at Chester Zoo, said: “This new arrival is a real boost to a critically endangered species.
“It increases the number of eastern black rhino at Chester to 11 and is another vitally important success story in a Europe-wide breeding programme for these highly threatened animals.
“A thriving, healthy population of this high-profile species in good zoos is vitally important to the future of this species and a key component of our mission to prevent their extinction.”
The father, 19-year-old Magadi, has sired five other calves.
Researchers at Chester Zoo analyse rhino dung to track the animals’ hormones and discover the best time to introduce them to a potential partner.