The San Diego Zoo Safari Park announced this week that six southern white rhinos at its rescue facility now officially have names thanks to input – and votes – from visitors.
In November 2015, the group of female southern white rhinos – all between four and seven years old – arrived at the Safari Park’s Rhino Rescue Center, unnamed. They were relocated to the park from private reserves in South Africa as part of conservation efforts to save all critically endangered rhino species from extinction.
For the past month, Safari Park has been on a quest to name the rhinos.
Visitors have been casting their votes for possible names on the Safari Park website, choosing options from a list compiled by keepers at the Rhino Rescue Center.
With more than 2,000 votes, visitors were able to name one of the rhinos, choosing “Amani” as the winning moniker. The harmonious name is Swahili for “peace.”
Safari Park officials say the other five rhinos – Nikita, Livia, Wallis, Victoria and Helene – were named in honor of San Diego Zoo Global rhino rescue program supporters Nikita Kahn, Livia Stone, Wallis Annenberg, Victoria Seaver Dean and Dr. Helene Hoffman.
Safari Park officials say the Rhino Rescue Center was built to house these six rhinos at a crucial time when, on average, three rhinos are killed by poachers each day in the wild. At the current rate of poaching, rhinos could become extinct in 15 years.
Today, the northern white rhino is the most critically endangered rhino species, with only three remaining in the world.
Researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research are currently collaborating with other animal experts to develop reproductive techniques to develop northern white rhino embryos from cells stored in the institute’s Frozen Zoo facility.
Researchers plan to implant those embryos in the newly-named southern white rhinos at Safari Park, who will serve as surrogate mothers.
“There are many challenges ahead, but researchers are optimistic that a northern white rhino calf could be born from these processes within 10 to 15 years. These technologies may also be applied to other rhino species, including the critically endangered Sumatran and Javan rhinos,” the Safari Park said in a press release.