Two white rhinos have safely delivered their calves, one male and one female, in the nature reserve of Vinpearl Safari on Phu Quoc Island, southern Vietnam.
The two newborns, weighing 40-50kg each, came out after a year and a half in their mothers’ wombs.
The calf born on April 3 has been named ‘Hakuna Matata,’ which means ‘no worries,’ as inspired by a song of the same name in Disney’s much-loved Lion King 1.
The other, born on April 20, stills awaits a meaningful name.
Their mothers are both doing well after birth.
|A baby rhino enjoys the caress of zookeepers at Vinpearl Safari on Phu Quoc Island, southern Vietnam. Photo: Huu Hanh / Tuoi Tre|
Butterflies in the stomachs
According to Bui Phi Hoang, head of animal care at Vinpearl Safari on Phu Quoc Island, various scenarios had been discussed before the rhinos went into labor, including difficult birth or the mother refusing to nurse her calves.
The zookeepers here prepared anesthetics, stretchers, ambulances and an emergency unit at a nearby animal hospital, with two vets and an officer continuously observing the labor process via CCTV.
The April 3 delivery came about smoothly, with the calf breastfed only two hours after birth.
The other one proved quite a challenge, as the mother started to assault the calf instead of nursing it.
|A natural habitat is ideal for wild animals. Photo: Huu Hanh / Tuoi Tre|
“The mother rhino calmed down after several hours, but it kept pushing the calf away while the small thing was in dire need of nursing,” Hoang said.
According to Hoang’s team, the mother and her calf would have to be separated if nursing did not occur until 9:00 am of the next day.
They anxiously observed the animals, and it was 30 minutes before the deadline when they could finally give a sigh of relief. At 8:30 am, the calf started to breastfeed.
Le Truong Han from the Mekong Delta province of An Giang has been taking care of this mother rhino for the last one year.
He informed that the pregnancy of rhinos can last 16-18 months, and the biggest risk of miscarriage comes from violent fighting.
Therefore, pregnant rhinos are given their own feeding areas so as to avoid hostility.
Before the H-hour, mother rhinos’ anxiety displays itself in continuous pacing and panting.
“No one has seen a rhino give birth before, so it feels like my wife is going into labor herself,” Han said.
|The calf born on April 3, 2019 was named ‘Hakuna Matata’. Photo: Huu Hanh / Tuoi Tre|
Within the first post-natal week, the mother rhino and her offspring are kept in an isolated cage with hay and a large shaded playground.
The only source of nutrition for the babies for the first two months is breast milk.
Thus, the two mother rhinos receive special treats – better diets than others in the herd.
Each meal weighs 150kg of foods, including 65kg of ground elephant grass, 20kg of corn, 20kg of carrots, 15kg of sweet potatoes, 8kg of processed foods, 15kg of Alfalfa hay, as well as vitamins and minerals.
According to Hoang, the protective instinct of the mother rhinos can be so profound that they would reject all food supplies.
Only in a completely safe environment will the mothers rest assured and start to eat.
When they sense danger ahead, the mother rhinos will block the way so her young will not step forward.
They can stand guard day and night to protect the calves, without sparing a moment to eat.
As your correspondents from Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper observed, the mother rhinos stayed within one meter of the baby rhinos most of the time.
Meanwhile, the two calves themselves would not stop running around the playground, giving their mothers quite a tough time to catch up.
Sometimes the young could get to explore their environment, and they were quite interested in visitors in strange costumes around their cages.
Hakuna Matata has now been allowed to follow its mother outside in the open air where they can bathe in the mud, rest in the shades and run the extensive grounds.
He is a keen runner and explorer, but will shriek out loud when he feels he is coming too close to humans.
When the mother saw him approach the fence where there was a large male rhino, she charged toward the calf, startling all beings around her.
Even the male rhino had to back off.
|A female rhino’s daily diet includes 150kg of foods in total, including alfalfa grass, carrots, corn, processed foods, vitamins and minerals. Photo: Huu Hanh / Tuoi Tre|
An ideal birth ground
According to keepers at Vinpearl Safari on Phu Quoc, another female rhino is showing signs of pregnancy.
Many other animals have also successfully given birth here.
In 2018, this safari witnessed 380 newborns, including hippos, Bengal tigers, white lions, leopards, Olive baboons, ring-tailed lemurs, Bongo antelopes, African skunk pigs, and scimitar-horned oryx.
Difficult birth cases were supported by vets.
To determine the level of happiness of the animals here, experts place their calculations on their physical-emotional states like smooth furs, sparkling eyes and calmness.
“The births of a large variety of animals in the half-natural reserve of Vinpearl Safari Phu Quoc is proof of a generally well-built habitat ideal for animals,” said Dave Morgan, field operations director of Wild Welfare, an organization that promotes animal welfare across the globe.