The birth of a southern white rhino in Sharjah has given new hope for a species that has faced the threat of extinction for well over a century.
Sharjah Safari has not yet opened its doors to the public but it is already on a vital conservation mission.
The baby rhino was welcomed into the world on Sunday, the fruit of a breeding programme, supported by the UN, that focuses on African native species.
The southern white rhino is primarily found in South Africa and continues to be in peril from poachers.
First thought to be extinct as far back as 1895, the species is making something of a comeback, with its number now estimated to be in excess of 20,000.
The animal has been given Near Threatened status by the World Wildlife Fund.
“There were many challenges in breeding this species. They are used to living in open landscape space in the savannahs,” said Hana Al Suwaidi, chief of Sharjah’s Environment and Protected Areas Authority.
“They prefer humid environments because their skin is very dry. It was a big challenge to create the adequate environment and breed it here in Sharjah.
“Thankfully, the species found themselves in safe environment in the safari and the breeding worked,” she said in an interview shared on Instagram.
In addition to the newborn, there are five white southern white rhinos in Sharjah Safari – three female and two male.
“The white rhino was born 10 days earlier than expected, but it is in good health and nursing with its mother,” Ms Al Suwaidi said.
The sex of the animal cannot be detected yet, she said, because vets do not wish to interfere with the feeding process.
“We can find out within a few weeks. The nursing period is still fresh,” Ms Al Suwaidi said.
“After some time, the mother will be more relaxed and comfortable with the environment.
“Most likely it is a female; we are 80 per cent sure.”
Sharjah Safari is being developed by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority in partnership with the Environment and Protected Areas Authority.
The vast park, which officials say will be the biggest of its kind outside of Africa, is expected to open later this year or in early 2022.