Beds, Herts & Bucks

Whipsnade Zoo's newborn rhino weighs 13st

Greater one-horned rhino calf Ajang makes an appearance with his mother Behin
Image caption Greater one-horned rhino calf Ajang makes an appearance with his mother

A newborn rhino at a Bedfordshire zoo has been unveiled to the public just over a week after it was born and it already weighs 13 stone (82kg).

Ajang, which means "enormous" in Nepalese, was born at Whipsnade Zoo near Dunstable last Tuesday.

Zoo staff said the 3ft-high (0.9m) greater one-horned calf was already throwing his weight around and keeping mother Behin busy.

The zoo said the birth was important for the conservation of the species.

Behin, a gift from the government of Nepal, is already mum to three-year-old Asha, but Ajang was the first offspring for father Hugo, 12, who arrived from Poland two years ago.

Keepers at Whipsnade watched the labour and birth through a CCTV monitor set up next door to the "nursery paddock".

'Constant threat'

Deputy section leader Veronica Watkins said Ajang got to his feet 20 minutes after being born.

She said: "It was a tough and exhausting labour for Behin, so it was terrific relief to watch her deliver a healthy young calf who was up on his feet in a very short time. She is being a fantastic mum too.

"It's great to build the population in captivity, but these animals aren't doing so well in the wild where their species is under constant threat.

"We hope visitors who see Ajang will want to help us protect the last of his kind in the wild."

Asian rhino, which are endangered in the wild, can weigh up to two tonnes and measure about 6ft (1.8m) at shoulder height.

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which runs Whipsnade and London Zoo, carries out conservation work in Nepal to try to stabilise the rhinos' dwindling population.

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