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Rhino Calf Explores San Diego Zoo Safari Park Main Exhibit For First Time

Edward, a southern white rhino calf at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, “gets a...

Photo by Ken Bohn / San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Above: Edward, a southern white rhino calf at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, “gets air” as he runs around and explores the exhibit yard at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center for his first time on Aug. 19, 2019.

A 22-day-old southern white rhino at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park took his first steps Monday into the main exhibit yard.

In his first foray out of the maternity area, Edward and his mother Victoria ran around the perimeter of the two-acre Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center for nearly 30 minutes, according to zookeepers. The two had remained cordoned off since Edward's July 28 birth to allow them to bond and the 243-pound calf to build up stamina and weight. He weighed 148 pounds at birth.

"The second they entered the exhibit, Victoria just took off, running laps, and it was so fun to see Edward running right along beside her," Safari Park Senior Keeper Jill Van Kempen said. "He was very energetic, sometimes breathing heavily, and even getting all four feet off the ground at times."

RELATED: Baby Rhino In San Diego Gains Weight, Offers Promise For Saving A Species

After circling the enclosure, the two rhinos stopped to take a mud bath. The instinctive behavior keeps the rhinos cool while also acting as a bud repellant and sunscreen.

Edward is the 99th southern white rhino calf born at the Safari Park and the first such calf to be born through artificial insemination in North America. His birth represents a step toward the zoo's longer-term goal of recovering the northern white rhino, a distant relative of the southern white rhino. Only two northern white rhinos still exist on the planet and both are female.

Zoo officials aim to use stem cells and preserved northern white rhino cells to birth a northern white rhino calf within 10-20 years. The zoo's southern white rhinos would serve as surrogates for the northern white rhino embryos through artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization or an embryo transfer.

If the plan proves successful, researchers could attempt similar assisted reproduction techniques with the critically endangered Sumatran and Javan rhinos.

The Safari Park is expecting a second southern white rhino birth in September or October. The zoo announced that calf's conception through artificial insemination last September.

Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

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