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Amelia Islander

It's a Baby (Rhino) Boom

Sep 01, 2019 11:46AM
By Julie Simmons • Photo by Stephanie Rutan

If one is good, then two is better, or at least that is what the White Oak Conservation Foundation family said about their brand new pair of white rhino girls born in July—just two weeks apart!

“Our rhinos live in naturalistic, healthy enclosures, and they do what comes naturally—and lately it was having babies,” smiles Brandy Carvalho, Development & Sustainability Manager at White Oak. “We are committed to letting our animals conceive and deliver their offspring naturally whenever possible, so we stay pretty hands-off,” Brandy explains when I asked how this all works.

“Early on we can recognize the signs of pregnancy, which usually lasts around 16 months. Additionally, we’ve learned the signs of delivery. When the timing is right, we move the mother to a smaller habitat for privacy and safety.”

Soon after, the rhino delivers as she would in the wild, on her own, and within hours, the baby rhino is moving, walking, and bonding with her. “We keep them together for as long as the mother desires, and when they are ready, the pair rejoin the rest of the herd.”

“So why rhinos?” I ask Brandy. She responds that rhinos are one of White Oak’s flagship species and their work with rhinos dates back three decades to when Howard Gilman established the organization. White Oak, located just north of us in the Yulee area, was founded to be just this—a leading global organization for conservation of threatened and endangered species.

“When we started our program, it was before the rhino conservation issues escalated to the place they are today. It was very forward thinking to begin work in this space,” says Brandy. “White rhinos are one of the three rhino species that thrive at White Oak. We also protect black and greater one-horned rhinos.

“Though white rhinos are more numerous in the wild than the other five species, they, too, are threatened by habitat destruction and poachers, who kill them for their horns. Traditionally, the poaching was for medicinal purposes, but the demand increased, and today a black market exists where folks treasure Rhino trinkets, bowls, and bracelets as status symbols beyond the strictly medicinal purposes.”

If you would like to visit White Oak and see the rhinos, along with the 31 other species of wildlife including antelope, buffalo, giraffe, and okapi that call White Oak home—there are several ways to do so. Public two-hour trolley tours are offered Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m., with tickets priced $100 per adult and $50 per child. Another option is to tour the property on horseback in their Safari from the Saddle tour. You may also attend monthly White Oak special events, which include Saturday Safari, Sunset Safari, Breakfast with the Beasts, or most appropriately on September 19, Winos for Rhinos.

Winos for Rhinos includes a tour of the new and expanding rhino habitats, where you will meet all three species, their caretakers, and learn about the conservation programs. During your stops, you may try African wine and hors d’oeuvres prepared by White Oak’s culinary team. The event concludes with a tour of the historic Gilman Hall, where you will enjoy a gourmet dinner. Proceeds from all events fund the conservation and education programs.

For more information about White Oak, their conservation efforts, and rhinos, visit www.whiteoakwildlife.org. You may also sign up for White Oak’s newsletter to receive updates on monthly events and special offers.