At 7 weeks old, little Sabi weighs about 245 lbs. and is "very alert," according to Taronga Western Plains Zoos' black rhino keeper Hayley Brooks

By Jen Juneau
April 30, 2021 11:27 AM
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Sabi Star will see you now!

The 7-week-old black rhinoceros calf made her debut this week alongside mom Bakhita at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia.

Weighing in at about 245 lbs., baby Sabi could be seen emerging for the first time into her exhibit in a video shared by the Associated Press Wednesday, adorably trailing behind her mama as onlookers took photos from outside the enclosure.

"[Sabi] is doing fantastic," black rhino keeper Hayley Brooks told the AP. "She's been incredibly confident ... she's certainly very comfortable with her mom, who's very experienced — this is now her fourth calf, so she definitely knows what she's doing. And that allows Sabi to feel nice and comfortable and quite confident, as well."

"We're the only institution in Australasia that's currently breeding [black rhinos], so having successful births is really crucial," Brooks continued. "And Sabi is a very exciting one. She's calf No. 15 that's been born here at the zoo since 1993, and being a female, she hopefully can help continue this program herself by having her own calves."

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Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s Black Rhino calf, Sabi Star
Black rhino calf Sabi Star
| Credit: Taronga Western Plains Zoo
Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s Black Rhino calf, Sabi Star
Black rhino calf Sabi Star and mom Bakhita
| Credit: Taronga Western Plains Zoo
Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s Black Rhino calf, Sabi Star
Black rhino calf Sabi Star
| Credit: Taronga Western Plains Zoo

In a release on the zoo's website, staff said that the "confident and inquisitive" Sabi is "starting to try some solid foods such as banana, sweet potato and carrot."

"Sabi Star will also pick up branches and mimic Bakhita's feeding which is a great sign she is learning behaviors from mum," zoo staff added.

Brooks said in the release, "Sabi Star has been very alert on the exhibit paddock and seemed to notice unfamiliar faces, sounds and people when she first went out. She listened and watched intently but took comfort and direction from her experienced mum."

Bakhita has also taught her young calf "to wallow in the mud," which Brooks noted "is essential for maintaining healthy skin and staying cool in the heat."

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"We couldn't be happier with the maternal care and guidance Bakhita is showing towards her calf, but being an experienced mother we knew she was going to do an amazing job," Brooks added.

Sabi was named after a Zimbabwe-native flower that blooms following drought, according to ABC News Australia — and her birth is especially important, as there are fewer than 6,000 black rhinos left in the wild.

"Obviously, conservation in the field is a huge consideration as well and here at the zoo, we support programs like anti-poaching patrols and community engagement in Africa and Asia," Brooks told ABC News Australia.

"Gestation period is generally 15 to 16 months, so it's quite a long wait for the calf to be born and they do only have one at a time," she also said.

Sabi's addition to conservation efforts comes after a male black rhino calf was born at Zoo Miami this past February and, last October, Chester Zoo in England saw the birth of a female black rhino calf.