Male Southern White Rhino Introduced in Endangered Species Boma

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12 February 2014

At the end of last year, we announced the Ol Pejeta Conservancy Wildlife Department’s drastic decision to introduce a male southern white rhino to the two female northern whites, Fatu and Najin, in a last-ditch effort to save the northern white rhino.

This match-making introduction has now taken place in a collaboration between the Kenya Wildlife Service, Ol Pejeta and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. On the 25th January a fine and fertile southern white male was translocated  from neighbouring Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to the endangered species enclosure on Ol Pejeta. The operation was smooth, with him arriving at his new home just a few hours after being darted by the veterinary unit in Lewa.

The four last remaining fertile northern white rhinos in the world were moved to Ol Pejeta in 2009, in the hope that the climate and rich grasslands of the Conservancy, similar to the  native habitat of this species, would provide them with more favourable breeding conditions. Despite the fact that Suni, one of the males, was seen mating with Najin in 2012, there have still been no successful pregnancies, and time is running out.

The rhinos are not getting any younger, and in a desperate attempt to salvage the species, the Wildlife Department decided to introduce a closely related southern white rhino, to the northern whites. If breeding is successful, the hope is that the two females can produce several offspring through ‘inter-crossing’ the subspecies in this way. Although these animals will not be 100% northern white rhinos, they will be conserving the important locally adapted genes for the habitats and environment that the northern white rhino was adapted for and evolved within. There is future potential for these inter-crossed offspring to be bred back with pure northern whites, and thereby increase the proportion of genes in future generations of a locally adapted genetically healthy white rhino population.

The Lewa stud has been put in the large enclosure with Fatu and Najin. Why one lucky guy with two females, you might ask? Experience has shown that if female rhinos are presented with competition from other females, they are more likely to cycle and reproduce.

Rangers who have been closely monitoring the introduction, say that although the rhinos haven’t met yet (the enclosure is so huge) their paths keep crossing, which means that the Lewa male will be picking up the scent of the females, and vice versa.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page and our website for updates of any courtship or mating!

Until then, visitors are still welcome to the Conservancy to visit the Endangered Species Boma - home to the northern white rhinos - and get up close and personal with the four animals.

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