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San Diego Zoo welcomes birth of adorable white rhino calf

By Zoe Sottile, CNN

An adorable baby white rhino was born at the San Diego Zoo — and conservationists hope his birth might signal good news for his endangered cousins.

The unnamed rhino calf was born on August 6th to first-time mother Livia and father J Gregory, according to a news release from the San Diego Zoo.

The baby is “healthy, confident and full of energy,” the zoo staff says, adding, “Livia is an excellent mother, very attentive and protective of her offspring.”

There are two subspecies of white rhinoceros: southern and northern. The baby is a southern white rhino, which is listed as “Near Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). There are around 10,000 southern white rhinos in the wild, according to the IUCN.

But it’s a far different story for the species’ northern cousins, whose population has been devastated by poaching for their horns and other body parts. There are just two northern white rhinos left, a mother-daughter pair living in a conservancy in Kenya. Neither have been able to carry a pregnancy to term.

That’s where Livia — the San Diego Zoo’s newborn calf’s mother — comes in. Her successful pregnancy means that she may be a candidate to carry a northern white rhino embryo in the future.

“Livia is now among the female rhinos at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center who could potentially serve in the future as a surrogate mother to a northern white embryo,” says the release.

The San Diego Zoo’s Northern White Rhino Initiative hopes to use cutting-edge reproductive technology to try to save the species from the brink of extinction. The zoo is also home to a so-called frozen zoo, a cryobank that stores reproductive cells and embryos from almost 1,000 species, including 12 northern white rhino cell lines.

Someday, these cell lines may be used to create northern white rhino sperm and egg cells, leading to embryos that could be implanted in surrogate mothers like Livia, says the news release.

“All rhino births are significant,” the zoo adds.

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