North Carolina Zoo surprises with second rhino baby

ASHEBORO, N.C. -- Less than two weeks ago, the first rhino born at the North Carolina Zoo in 41 years came into the world. Now, she's got a half-sister.

On July 13, a second baby rhino was born on exhibit to mother Kit and father Stormy. Her older unnamed half-sister was born on July 2 to Stormy and  mother Linda.

“Congratulations again to the North Carolina Zoo on this second birth of a southern white rhino,” said Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources in a news release. "The Zoo’s efforts to save this species are yet another example of the leadership role the Zoo plays in conserving important species both at home and around the world."

The calf is healthy and doing well, according to a news release, and the zoo plans to do a thorough check-up soon.

Zookeepers have been trying to breed the southern white rhinos for more than a decade, but zoo officials previously stated that the July 3 rhino calf came as a bit of a surprise.

Animal Supervisor Chris Lasher explained, "In the middle of June, we started noticing Linda showing some signs of a pregnancy. White rhinos are pregnant for 16 months. Can you imagine being pregnant for 16 months? But they have absolutely no changes to the their body at all."

The Linda's baby was born at more than 100 pounds and now weighs over 150 pounds.

Zoo officials expect both babies to continue to gain about 100 pounds a month for the first year.

The North Carolina Zoo is part of a global effort to save the southern white rhino and has taken care of rhinos since 1976. In 2008, the zoo completed a 40-acre Watani Grasslands expansion to support a breeding rhino herd. The herd includes the two babies as well as male Stormy and females Kit, Linda, Natalie and Abby. Stan, a male, and Olivia, a female, are both older rhinos living in a off-viewing retirement habitat.

Southern white rhinos came close to extinction in the beginning of the 20th century when they were hunted for their horns.

Wild populations still face threats from poaching and habitat loss.

The zoo continues  to work on projects to protect these gentle giants from poaching in several countries in Southern Africa.