Human Interest

Baby rhino relishes healthy, active 1st month at Cuban zoo

Havana, Jul 15 (EFE).- Ale, a baby white rhinoceros who turned one month old last weekend, has been healthy and active and is socializing with members of his herd and other species so far at Cuba’s largest zoo, one of that giant mammal’s caregivers told Efe.

Armando Perez, a young exotic fauna and wildlife technician, provided that update on Ale, saying he is a source of pride for employees of the National Zoo, a facility in Havana that is home to more than 120 different animal species.

“His development has been positive and he’s blended in super well with the herd,” Perez said during a visit by Efe reporters to the spacious zoo, where the animals’ living conditions replicate those of their native habitats.

Ale is developing faster than his sister Mel, according to Perez, who said he is “more active and maintains closer contact with the other rhinoceroses,” although he remains dependent on his mother.

The young rhino currently weighs around 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and is consuming not only breast milk – which will be his main source of nutrition for 18 months – but also fruit, fodder and animal feed.

Besides walking in the company of his mother, the baby rhino socializes with other species that inhabit the vast expanses of the park’s 42-hectare (104-acre) “African savanna,” including giraffes, zebras, antelopes, ostriches and hippopotamuses.

The baby white rhino, who was born on June 9, is the eighth member of his species at the zoo. That herd also includes his parents Alexander and Katherine, who arrived there in November 2013 after being donated by the Namibian government.

“We’re hopeful about continuing down this road of protecting a species” listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as near-threatened, Alexander Arango, an exotic fauna expert with 20 years of experience at the zoo, told Efe.

The rhinoceroses had reproduced in a stable manner until 2001, but a long dry spell ensued until Katherine gave birth to Mel three years ago.

In his remarks to Efe, Arango explained that rhinos weigh 50 kg at birth and need to gain one kilo per day until reaching adulthood, when they can weigh up to three tons and be around three meters (around 10 feet) long.

Cuba’s National Zoo, located in southwestern Havana’s Boyeros borough, opened its doors in 1984 and is one of 23 zoos on that Caribbean island.

It occupies an area of 342 hectares and is surrounded by a 10.6-kilometer (6.6-mile) perimeter fence.

A total of 1,428 animals call the zoo home, including mammals, birds, primates and reptiles.

The first batch of animals arrived from Tanzania, according to the zoo’s director of animal wellbeing, Arner Fumero Hernandez, who said a second shipment from Namibia, known as Noah’s Ark II, brought a total of 23 separate species and 146 animals.

That latter donation included antelopes, elephants, rhinoceroses, vultures, ostriches, hyenas, lions, leopards, porcupines and bat-eared foxes, among other species.

Another group of 42 animals from 13 species arrived on the island in 2018 as part of an exchange with Guatemala City’s La Aurora Zoo, which sent Bengal tigers, antelopes, spider monkeys, capuchin monkeys, olive baboons, black swans and several species of parrots.

Visitors to the National Zoo in Havana can tour the zoo’s grounds by bus or view the animals from several lookout points. EFE


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