Can you believe that our little Edward is approaching his first birthday? I sure can’t. So much has changed in our lives, but one thing remains constant for us at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center: Edward is one special rhino!
Much like the way new parents take this milestone to reflect on the birth and growth of their child and marvel at the experience, I remember how excited, anxious, and impatient we all were at this time last year. We had friends all over the globe eagerly awaiting his arrival along with us. And, when that time came, we were overjoyed with happiness, relief, and hope for the future of rhino conservation. Edward is so unique because he is the first southern white rhinoceros to be born as a result of artificial insemination in North America. Edward is here thanks to the efforts of so many people, such as wildlife care specialists, reproductive scientists, geneticists, and veterinarians who are part of the Northern White Rhino Initiative (NWRI).
The NWRI is an enormous goal we are collectively working toward—to save the northern white rhino from the brink of extinction. This project is overwhelming at times, but Edward’s birth was a huge step and a major celebration for all of us, including you. As a San Diego Zoo Global supporter, you have put your trust in us to achieve incredibly ambitious conservation goals. So, let’s celebrate Edward’s first birthday and look ahead to what we aim to accomplish in the future. But first, a little more about Edward!
Born at 6 p.m. on July 28, Edward arrived via a textbook-perfect birth from his mom, 11 year-old Victoria. A few of us were present to witness this unforgettable experience. When he appeared on the ground, and took his first breath, we were instantly elated. We watched quietly as Victoria’s maternal instincts kicked in. She nudged him to help him stand and waited patiently while he searched her all over to find “the spot” to nurse. She was an attentive mom from the start, and we gave her a few days to build a strong bond with him. After she realized he was healthy and strong, she was happy to engage in interactions with the wildlife care specialists again. We gave her extra attention, brought all of her favorite food items and continued our positive-reinforcement-based relationship with her, giving her all the support she needed to be a good mom.
We watched mother and son progress through various milestones and watched the calf grow at an incredible rate. After a few months, we introduced Edward to the rest of the crash (group of rhinos). The other adults were curious and excited to meet him, and and he created bonds with all of them—and later gained a playmate when little female Future was born. Edward is playful, friendly, and eager to greet us each day. We are so lucky to take care of an animal who has such significance in the world.
One year later, Edward is an absolute joy to have as a resident at the Rhino Rescue Center, where he has joined a crash of rhinos that have no idea of their importance in the world. The rest of the females, along with Victoria, will eventually become surrogate dams to northern white rhino calves in the future. Edward’s birthday marks another step in the right direction, and he is surrounded by hope for the future of all rhinos.
Jonnie Capiro is a lead keeper at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center. Read her previous blog Rhino Baby Watch.