A white rhino is born in a Chilean zoo, boosting the near-endangered species

In Santiago, Chile, a significant event has taken place at the Buin Zoo. A 13-year-old white rhinoceros named Hannah gave birth to a male calf, named Silverio. This birth is noteworthy as it is the third time a white rhino has been born in South America, and the third calf born to Hannah and Oliver, a pair of southern white rhinos who were transported from sub-Saharan Africa more than a decade ago. The birth is being hailed as a significant achievement for conservationists worldwide.

The arrival of Silverio is especially notable given the challenges faced by rhino breeding programs across South America. Over the past year, only eight other southern white rhinos have been born. However, the Buin Zoo’s success with Hannah and Oliver offers hope for the future of this near-endangered species.

Southern white rhinos are classified as “nearly endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Despite this classification, the future of the species remains precarious due to illegal hunting and the difficulties of reproducing in captivity. Approximately 10,000 southern white rhinos are currently alive, with the majority residing in zoos.

The success at the Buin Zoo comes as another threat looms over the northern white rhino, which has effectively become extinct, although efforts to revive the species through assisted reproduction and stem cell research are underway. Human activities, particularly hunting, pose a significant threat to both species. In 2021, an estimated 1,000 white rhinos were killed for their horns, according to the IUCN. The organization also reports that roughly 17 white rhinos are born each year.

The birth of Silverio not only offers hope for the white rhino population but also represents a significant contribution to conservation efforts in Latin America and worldwide. The zoo’s director, Ignacio Idalsoaga, emphasized their commitment to the species, saying, “We are contributing with a ninth calf to a species that has only a few left in the wild.” As efforts to protect and expand white rhino populations continue, each birth becomes a crucial step towards a secure future for these magnificent creatures.

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