A southern white rhino, part of a species once hunted to near-extinction, has been born at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro.
The 80- to 90-pound female calf was the first born at the zoo in 41 years. It was born Monday and is healthy and nursing, zoo officials said, and is expected to reach 3,500 to 5,500 pounds as an adult.
Southern white rhinos are hunted for their horns, which some cultures believe are an aphrodisiac. They were nearing extinction at the beginning of the 20th century and are still threatened by poaching and loss of habitat. Zoo staff are involved in several projects to protect them in southern Africa.
At least two suspected rhino poachers were mauled to death and eaten by lions in a South African game reserve, the BBC reported Thursday.
The closely related northern white rhino was declared effectively extinct this year when the last male died.
The zoo expanded its 40-acre Watani Grasslands Reserve in 2008 specifically for a breeding rhino herd, which now numbers eight animals. The N.C. facility is part of an Association of Zoos and Aquariums effort to maintain a population of southern white rhinos under human care while continuing global conservation.
"Every birth at the North Carolina Zoo is special and this one particularly so,” Pat Simmons, the zoo's executive director, said in a statement. “With each new rhino born, it is a success story for this species as a whole. The zoo is committed to being part of conservation initiatives both within the zoo community and internationally in order to ensure the survival of this species."