New faces roam at the Wilds

With three weekends left in the park’s regular season, the Wilds safari park and conservation center has recently added one more fresh young face to the mix.

A baby Indian rhinoceros, born in pasture Sept. 27 at the Cumberland park north of Marietta, joins a baby white rhino and a baby Masai giraffe that arrived in early September.

Visitors still have a chance to catch the yet- unnamed female Indian rhino calf in pasture with mother Dailey before she is soon moved to an indoor enclosure for the winter.

“We’re really excited about all these new babies. We hope people will come to see them before winter season,” said Wilds operations coordinator Heather Bell.

The healthy female calf is an important addition for several reasons, explained Dan Beetem, director of animal management at the facility.

“These rhinos are native to India and Nepal and they are endangered because they are hunted for their horns. The horns, which are made of keratin, go into the Asian medicine market even though there are no known health benefits of the keratin,” said Beetem.

The new calf is one of around 55 Indian rhinos housed at 23 zoos in the United States. However, she is also significant because she represents a new bloodline in the breeding program overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

“A few years ago, the San Diego Zoo made a big investment. They purchased three bulls from India to create a new bloodline,” explained Beetem.

One of those bulls, 10-year-old Rustum, is housed at the Wilds and has sired the newest calf and her one-year-old half-brother Jeezan.

Not to be out-shined, the young white rhino calf born Sept. 3, also represents an important breeding accomplishment. The female is the third offspring of Zenzele-the first white rhino ever born at the Wilds-and is a fourth-generation rhino.

Being able to trace her lineage back that far is significant because white rhinos initially proved difficult to breed in captivity, said Beetem.

The white rhino herd at the Wilds is the only one known to be producing fourth generation offspring.

“White rhinos are a very social breed. They like to be in herds and we’ve now found that they are more likely to breed when given the opportunity to be in an environment conducive to that,” added Beetem.

Social and fearless, the five-week-old calf is quick to frolic up to visitors and give them a sniff.

“They aren’t afraid of much with a 6,000 pound momma behind them,” added Bell.

Born Sept. 1 and already pushing six-feet tall, the young male giraffe is staying at the giraffe barn with mom Geraldine.

The Wilds is open Saturdays and Sundays in October for a variety of tours, said Bell. The classic Safari Transport and Open-Air Safari Tours bus visitors throughout the open-range animal areas where they can see both rhino species, zebras, camels, wild horses, bison, and more.

For the last two weekends, the park will be offering fall-themed activities including a haunted bus tour and a hay maze. All activities are family-oriented and appropriate for all ages, said Bell.

For an incredibly hands on experience, the Wilds offers a Wildside Tour. Wildside Tours are available by reservation year round and give guests the opportunity to interact with animal management specialists as they go about their day to day work. Visitors who reserve Wildside Tour during the winter will still have the opportunity to visit the indoor animals at their enclosures among other things, said Bell.

The Wilds also offers horseback and zipline tours of the facility and stays offers fishing through October.

Winter is also a good time to stay in one of the park’s yurts or in the private lodge, said Bell.

For the first time ever, the park is offering a package deal for lodge guests, said Bell. Lodge guests who opt to take the Wildside Tour during their stay will receive a free guest pass for every two purchased.

For more information about the Wilds, visit them online at www.thewilds.org.