Preparing for a Rhino Debut

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Charlees explores the world under the watchful eye of her mother.

Since the birth of a greater one-horned rhino calf, Charlees, at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, so much has happened (see Preparing for a Rhino Birth)!  As Charlees (pronounced like Charlize, her name is the Bengali language for Charlie) and her mother, Alta, got to know each other, they started leaving the maternity room to venture into the boma yard (a fenced-off area within the Park’s huge Asian Savanna exhibit), during the day for some nice weather and visits from the rest of the rhinos. The new mother and daughter also became more accustomed to having the keepers around doing observations and monitoring their progress.

As a first-time mom, Alta was experiencing some adjustments to her routine. She used to rest during the day, but now, Charlees would wake Alta up every hour or so, nudge her until she was standing, and nurse for up to 10 minutes at a time. This activity went on intermittently throughout the day. Rhino calves can gain up to 100 pounds (45 kilograms) a month, so this rhino team had a lot of work to do!

When they were not resting or feeding, they were exploring the boma yard or sleeping in the sun. Alta was doing a great job as a new mom. She was careful to keep her focus on her new baby! Alta hesitantly approached us for treats, like she used to, but now she was constantly checking on her calf, who was usually right near her or very close behind.

This adjustment period in the boma continued for another month or so. They needed some time to bond, time to get used to navigating the boma yard, and time to grow up a little to get ready for the introduction to the exhibit. Currently, there are eight other species in the Asian Savanna exhibit and over 100 animals! There were so many things for this new calf to learn, we wanted to be confident that Alta and Charlees were up for it. In the meantime, we continued to monitor them and get them ready for that exciting day. Check back next week to learn how it went!

Jonnie Capiro is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.