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Endangered baby rhino explores the UK’s largest zoo in Bedfordshire

A 100kg baby rhino has well and truly found its feet after being pictured running and jumping around its 21-acre paddock at Whipsnade Zoo.

The six-week-old calf, born on 7 March to mum Jaseera, has only just begun to venture out of its indoor cosy den, but already appears to be a big fan of the great outdoors.

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Rhino Keeper Michael Hepher said the endangered southern white rhino calf loves to play with the rest of the herd, before snuggling up to mum Jaseera.

Baby southern white rhino running across paddock.Baby southern white rhino running across paddock.
Baby southern white rhino running across paddock.

“When he’s not playing with the other rhinos, he loves to sleep and eat, and like any newborn he still needs regular naps! At six-weeks old he’s getting bolder by the day. While he started out quite wobbly on his feet, he’s now firmly found his stride.”

Whipsnade Zoo is part of global conservation charity ZSL, which works around the world to protect endangered species and their habitats. The rhino calf has been named Benja by ZSL’s conservationists in Kenya, where they are part of efforts to protect rhinos and other species with partners including the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Tsavo Trust.

Michael added: “As well as being an important addition to the conservation breeding programme for his species, Benja is a great ambassador helping to educate the public about rhinos in the wild and inspire them to support our conservation efforts.

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“ZSL has an amazing legacy of protecting rhinos in the wild. Sadly, there’s only around 350 black rhinos left in Kenya today due to poaching and habitat loss. Similarly white rhinos, like our little Benja, are facing the same threats of poaching and habitat loss in South Africa in the wild, with 500 killed last year for their horns.”

Baby rhino Benja and mum Jaseera at Whipsnade Zoo.Baby rhino Benja and mum Jaseera at Whipsnade Zoo.
Baby rhino Benja and mum Jaseera at Whipsnade Zoo.

ZSL Kenya Country Manager Gurveena Ghataure said the field team chose the name Benja, in honour of the dominant black rhino bull who lives in the Tsavo Conservation Area where ZSL works.

“Benja is a highly distinguished rhino, with his name symbolising resilience. He is an incredible champion for these iconic creatures, and we felt this was the ideal name for the new calf at Whipsnade Zoo,” she said.

Gurveena explained that Benja, in the Tsavo herd, is known for his irresistible allure and courtship tactics which attract females like moths to a flame.

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“Benja is very calm and measured. He loves to browse amid the acacias, an African tree, or quench his thirst at local waterholes. We hope baby Benja is as enchanting as his namesake and has a long successful breeding future ahead of him, to help conserve these magnificent animals.”

Every visit to meet baby Benja and the crash of rhinos at Whipsnade Zoo, supports the work of ZSL’s conservation teams around the world. To find out more or to buy tickets, visit: https://www.whipsnadezoo.org/

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