The San Diego Zoo Safari park got six early Christmas presents in the form of southern white rhinos Thursday.
The female rhinos, all between four and seven years old, arrived after a 22-hour flight from South Africa.
The rhinos were relocated from private reserves in a collaborative effort to help save the critically endangered northern white rhino from extinction.
“We are beyond thrilled to welcome these southern white rhinos to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and our new Rhino Rescue Center,” said Steve Metzler, interim associate curator of mammals, who accompanied the animals from South Africa to San Diego. “The animals did extremely well during the flight, eating normally and sleeping a good portion of the long trip. Our priority now is to ensure the rhinos are comfortable and acclimating to their new surroundings.”
Northern white rhinos have been poached to near extinction for their horns with only four remaining in the world; Nola, a 41-year-old rhino, lives in the Safari Park. The other three live in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
Facing extinction a decade ago, southern white rhinos now thrive in reserves with a population of more than 20,000.
The six female southern white rhinos will become surrogate mothers for northern white rhino embryos developed by researchers.
Researchers are optimistic within the next 10 to 15 years a northern white rhino could be born from these efforts.
San Diego Zoo Global has one of the most successful rhino breeding programs in the world. To date, a total of 94 southern white rhinos, 68 greater one-horned rhinos and 14 black rhinos have been born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.