Six female southern white rhinos that arrived at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Rhino Rescue Center in November 2015 now have names.
For the past month, visitors to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s website were able to cast a vote to name one of the rhinos. A list of possible names was provided by keepers at the Rhino Rescue Center: Amani (Swahili for “peace”), Kuokoa (Swahili for “save”), Nzuri (Swahili for “beautiful”) and Neema (Swahili for “grace”). More than 2,000 votes were received, and the most popular name choice was Amani.
The other five rhinos—Nikita, Livia, Wallis, Victoria and Helene—were named in honor of San Diego Zoo Global rhino rescue program friends and supporters Nikita Kahn, Livia Stone, Wallis Annenberg, Victoria Seaver Dean and Dr. Helene Hoffman.
The female rhinos, between 4 and 7 years of age, were relocated to the Safari Park from private reserves in South Africa as part of a collaborative conservation effort to save the critically endangered northern white rhino—and all rhino species—from extinction. Animal care staff report the rhinos have acclimated well to their new surroundings.
San Diego Zoo Global has been working for decades, 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. To further this commitment, the Rhino Rescue Center was recently built to house the six southern white rhinos, establishing the Safari Park as a sanctuary to protect these rhinos—at a time when an average of three rhinos are killed each day in the wild by poachers. Rhinos are poached for their horns, which are made of keratin, the same material as human fingernails. At the current rate of poaching, rhinos could become extinct in 15 years.
The northern white rhino is the most critically endangered rhino, with only three individuals remaining in the world. These three rhinos reside at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The six female southern white rhinos are part of San Diego Zoo Global’s science-based rhino conservation efforts to save the northern white rhino. Researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, along with collaborators, are developing reproductive techniques to develop northern white rhino embryos (from cells stored in the institute’s Frozen Zoo®) to be implanted in the southern white rhinos, which will serve as surrogate mothers. There are many challenges ahead, but researchers are optimistic that a northern white rhino calf could be born from these processes within 10 to 15 years. These technologies may also be applied to other rhino species, including the critically endangered Sumatran and Javan rhinos.