ASHEBORO, NC (WECT) - The North Carolina Zoo has a new member for its rhino herd.
Zoo officials announced this week the birth of a southern white rhino, the first born at the zoo in 41 years.
The female calf was born Monday to mother, Linda, and father, Stormy.
Zookeepers say the new addition is healthy and developing normally. She weighs approximately 80 to 90 pounds and is expected to gain 100 pounds a month her first year.
Rhinos are pregnant for between 16-18 months, so when the zoo's staff discovered Linda was expecting, they made preparations for the new arrival.
"The calves are really small," said Chris Lasher, animal management supervisor at the N.C. Zoo. "They're 90 pounds, but for a rhino that's really small. The stuff that keeps an adult rhino in, wouldn't necessarily keep a baby white rhino in the same area. So we had to do some baby-proofing to get ready for the arrival of this animal."
Officials say the zoo's 40-acre Watani Grasslands expansion, which was completed in 2008, was created specifically for a breeding rhino herd.
The N.C. Zoo plans to keep the new female her entire life. That means when the new rhino reaches reproduction age, her father, Stormy, will likely be moved away.
"Mostly what facilities do is we will keep the girls, and switch out males with another facility that is breeding white rhinos and be able to produce calves in the future also," Lasher said.
The zoo anticipates holding a naming contest for the calf.
Once she's able to be in the large habitat area, the public will be able to see her.
"We have to make sure she is old enough to keep up with mom and protect herself before we put her out there," Lasher said. "We're hoping, if everything goes well and we see the progress we expect to see, that she will be on the habitat sometime in the beginning of August."
Southern white rhinos were hunted to near extinction by the beginning of the 20th century for their horns, which some people erroneously believe can provide medicinal benefits to humans. Rhino horn is constructed from keratin, the same material that makes up human fingernails and hair.