Rhino calf is Christmas "miracle"

15 December 2010, 10:42 | Updated: 15 December 2010, 14:00

A tiny Asian rhino calf born at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire has been named “miracle” in its native language after keepers hand-reared it to save her life.

Karamat, which means miracle in Nepalese, was born breeched to mum Beluki and as a result was traumatised and unable to suckle properly. Despite attempts by keepers and vets to entice the calf to latch on, things were looking bleak when after 24 hours she still had not taken any of her mother’s milk.

Staff, who were camped out in sleeping bags in the next door hay barn took the rare step of intervening and fed the youngster by bottle, containing the vital colostrum she needed, sourced from local cows. Over the next few days and nights keepers and vets worked relentlessly to keep the youngster alive. Finally, after three long days and two overnight vigils the calf responded to their efforts and started feeding by herself from Beluki.

Veronica Watkins, deputy team leader explained: “Although Beluki is a great mum and she did everything she could during the labour, the breech birth really affected the health of the calf.

“Apart from being very weak and in shock, the calf was also hypothermic. It really was touch and go for a while. We used colostrum to help build the calf’s strength and bottle fed her every few hours,” said Veronica. “And although it’s been a very stressful, worry-filled few days, it was great to be part of such a dedicated team.”

The team’s hard work has paid off, the calf, the fourth of this endangered species to be born at the zoo in recent years, is doing well and it’s hoped she’ll soon be outside and playing in the winter sunshine.

Visitors can see the lively calf, born on 16th November, at the Rhinos of Nepal exhibit.