Buin Zoo Celebrates Birth of Rare Southern White Rhino Calf, Boosting Species Survival Hope


Nestled amidst the urban sprawl of Santiago, Chile, the Buin Zoo recently became the site of a miraculous event. A southern white rhinoceros named Hannah, one of the most threatened species on the planet, brought forth a little bundle of joy into the world. Silverio, a hefty male calf, was born two weeks ago, making him the third of his kind to take his first wobbly step on South American soil.

This momentous occasion was preceded by 12 days of intense medical care where Silverio was assisted by the zoo’s dedicated team of veterinarians. Emerging healthy and hale, the calf was finally introduced to enthralled visitors on Tuesday, his enormous paddles of feet taking their first stride under the spotlight.

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Silverio’s birth was reaffirming for conservationists around the globe. Over the past year, merely eight southern white rhinos had been born worldwide. Now, Silverio made it nine. Buin Zoo has been a beacon of hope in a continent of failed rhinoceros romances and frustrated gestation efforts.

It was the love story of Hannah and Oliver, two southern white rhinos who traveled halfway across the globe from sub-Saharan Africa to the Buin Zoo, that caught the world’s attention. To date, this unlikely pair has successfully birthed three calves, marking a significant achievement for their dwindling breed.

Zoo director, Ignacio Idalsoaga, acknowledged the disappointment of other Latin American zoos where attempts to breed this threatened species have been fruitless. He expressed the monumental importance of Silverio’s birth not only for the Buin Zoo but more specifically for the survival of the species. “We are contributing with a ninth calf to a species that has only a few left in the wild,” he said.

But this tale of hope emerges against a backdrop of scarcity. Northern white rhinos have essentially vanished, and the southern white rhinos — the northern’s close relatives and the more abundant species — have been on the “nearly endangered” list, as categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Current estimates suggest that just over 10,000 southern white rhinos exist today, the bulk of them confined within zoos.

However, they have registered an impressive comeback from the brink of extinction at the dawn of the 19th century. It was the tireless dedication of various conservation efforts that enabled them to cling to the precipice of survival. Still, conservationists voice their concern about the future. The quest for rhino horns continues to fuel merciless killings, and the challenge of successful rhino reproduction in captivity persists.

According to data by the International Conservation Union, rhinos have only one predator — man. Poachers are responsible for taking the lives of an estimated 1,000 rhinos each year, in stark contrast to an annual birth rate of approximately 17. This disheartening disparity underscores the gravity of Silverio’s birth. It’s riveting stories like these that inspire hope for this majestic creature’s long-term survival.