Black Rhino Birth Captured on Chester Zoo CCTV


The birth of a rare rhino calf has been captured on CCTV at Chester Zoo. 

After a pregnancy lasting 15-months, Ema Elsa, a 13-year-old Eastern black rhino, gave birth to the male calf at 22:54 on Saturday night.

The footage, caught by cameras in the enclosure, shows the youngster landing safely on deep sand in what zoo staff have described as the “perfect” birth.

Eastern black rhinos are listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered in the wild, with less than 650 now believed
to remain across Africa.

Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals at Chester Zoo, said:

“The footage picked up by our CCTV cameras gives us a rare glimpse of a momentous event – a birth which provides a big boost to the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme (EEP) for the magnificent Eastern black rhino. These animals are on the very brink of extinction and our new arrival is hugely important to the conservation of the species.

Ema Elsa is an experienced mum. She has given birth twice before at the zoo and this was another perfect delivery. It’s important now that she and her new calf have some quiet time together to strike up those vital early bonds.”

  • Black rhino populations in Africa are being decimated due to a huge surge in illegal poaching, driven by a global increase in demand for rhino horn to supply the traditional Asian medicine market. 
  • The issue is being fuelled by the high street value of rhino horn, which is currently changing hands for more per gram than both gold and cocaine.
Mike Jordan, collections director, added:

“Rhinos in the wild are being slaughtered for their horns by criminal gangs that sell their horn for huge amounts of money on the black market. If these poaching and hunting pressures continue, rhinos could be extinct in the wild in just over ten years’ time. It’s imperative that we act now and do all we can to try and save them.

Chester Zoo is one of just a handful of institutions in the world that is working with conservation organisations in Africa - including Save the Rhino International and the International Rhino Foundation - to ensure the long-term survival of rhinos in the wild. Areas we support, both through funding and through the provision of our expertise, include Chyulu and Laikipia in Kenya and Tsavo and Mkomazi in Tanzania. Alongside that, it’s important to have an effective breeding programme in zoos to maintain a genetically viable insurance population of the species. That’s why we’re also responsible for carefully coordinating the breeding programme for the species in zoos across the whole of Europe. In the future, it could be what saves them from extinction.

About Black Rhinos

  • Mum, Ema Elsa, is 13-years-old. She was born on 02/11/2002 and has now had  three calves at Chester Zoo – Bashira, Chanua and this latest arrival
  • Dad, Kiwifruit, is 31-years-old (born 21/10/1984). He arrived at Chester Zoo in 2014 from Hanover Zoo in Germany. He has now sired four calves with this being his first at Chester Zoo. His other offspring are called Samira, Saya and Taco
  • Chester Zoo has been successful in breeding a number of critically endangered black rhinos and plays a vital part in the international breeding programme, helping to ensure an insurance population exists in the event that black rhino become extinct in the wild
  • The latest arrival means that six Eastern black rhino calves have now been born at the zoo in the last seven years
  • The zoo’s director general, Dr Mark Pilgrim, is responsible for managing the European breeding programme for the Eastern black rhino
  • Ground-breaking science by a team at Chester Zoo team has contributed to the zoo’s successful black rhino breeding programme. Zoo researchers have spent several years carefully monitoring the hormone levels of their resident female rhinos in a bid to discover the best time to introduce them to a potential partner. These hormone levels are monitored by analysing rhino dung. Tracking hormones gives an insight into what is going on inside the animals. It can help tell things like whether or not an animal is a seasonal breeder, whether it has reached puberty, whether it’s cycling on a regular basis or not and when the optimum time to introduce a male to a female is, as well as diagnose pregnancies and estimate when an animal will give birth
  • The zoo is currently home to 10 critically endangered Eastern black rhinos and three greater one-horned rhinos
  • Eastern black rhinos are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • The growing price of rhino horn has led to a massive decline in rhino numbers, which have decreased by up to 97% across Africa in the past 50 years. 2014 was branded ‘the worst poaching year on record’ by leading conservationists after over 1,200 rhinos were hunted in South Africa alone - a 9,000% increase from 2007
  • Chester Zoo is one of the main organisations fighting for the survival of Eastern black rhino and has long supported conservation efforts in the wild to try and protect black rhinos and continues to fund, and provide expertise, to numerous sanctuaries in Africa
  • The Chester Zoo Black Rhino Programme started in 1999, in partnership with Save the Rhino, providing substantial financial support to Kenya Wildlife Service to enable the translocation of 20 black rhinos to wildlife reserves in the Tsavo region of Kenya
  • Recently the zoo has also provided support for rhinos in Chyulu Hills National Park and Laikipia District in Kenya and Mkomazi in Tanzania
  • In June 2015, the world’s leading experts on rhinos and rhino conservation came together in Europe for the first time when Chester Zoo hosted over 100 zoo keepers, researchers, scientists and conservationists from the USA, Australia, Africa and Europe to debate issues surrounding the five species of rhino – black, greater one-horned, white, Sumatran and Javan rhino. Video of Black Rhino birth
Rare footage of the birth at Chester Zoo of this endangered species