Burgers’ Zoo expects the birth of a baby white rhino to occur within the next two weeks. It was with exactly this hope and expectation that the young female Izala was transferred from the Swedish zoo in Kolmarden to Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem on 5 November 2013. She soon conceived, but her first pregnancy ended in a stillbirth on 25 January 2016. A white rhino’s first pregnancy is often unsuccessful, as the birth canal is not yet wide enough and the animal is inexperienced. As of Monday, 24 July 2017, website visitors can watch Izala live in her stall 24/7 at www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxvDnVax9_E.
The zoo in Arnhem has proven highly successful at breeding the endangered white rhino: 7 rhinos have been born there in the past 17 years, one of which was stillborn. On average, around 12 white rhinos are born annually in all European zoos combined, though there was an uplifting increase in 2016: 22 births. The increase is due to closer European cooperation, resulting in more transfers to put rhinos in promising breeding situations.
The white rhino is the least solitary of the five species of rhinoceros still on earth today. The males do lead a primarily solitary life, their territories overlapping the habitats of various adult females. The females often live in small groups with close blood ties among the members. These groups are often comprised of a few adult females and their offspring. Experience has shown that, in these situations, the hormonal cycle of the lower-ranked females is suppressed. Moving a young female to a different environment increases the odds of her normal hormonal cycle being restored, which increases her chance of conception. Izala was therefore transferred from Kolmarden, where she lived with her mother, to Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem in 2013.
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