The public has spoken! With over 5,500 people voting in the Toronto Zoo’s “Help Us Name Our Baby Rhinos” promotion, names for the greater one-horned rhino and white rhino have emerged as favourites. “Kiran”, meaning “ray of light” in Hindi,has been confirmed as the name for the Toronto Zoo’s male greater one-horned rhino calf! “Theodore”, starting with a “T” for dad Tom, has been confirmed as the name for the Toronto Zoo’s male white rhino calf! The Zoo’s Wildlife Care Keepers chose potential names for both the calves and the Toronto Zoo asked the public to vote online to help decide on the BEST name for each calf.

“By encouraging the public to assist us in naming our baby rhinos, it allows us to engage the community in a fun way,” says Maria Franke, Curator of Mammals, Toronto Zoo. “At the same time, it also allows us to bring forward the plight that all rhino species face in the wild. We hope that we have educated and empowered people to help the Toronto Zoo generate funds for conservation efforts to save these majestic animals.”

Theodore was born on December 24, 2017, to mother Zohari and father Tom. Kiran was born on January 4, 2018, to mother Ashakiran (affectionately known to her keepers as “Asha”) and father Vishnu.

Theodore’s birth is very important for white rhinoceros conservation as the species is currently listed as Near Threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.  There are approximately 19,682 – 21,077 left in the wild according to the IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group 2016. At one point, the species was as low as 20 animals left in the wild in South Africa’s Umfalozi Game Reserve but they were brought back from the brink of extinction through amazing conservation efforts.Their listing as Near Threatened is due to the continued increase in poaching for their horn in the black market trade. The population is heavily dependent on range state protection and if this is not maintained, the population could be upgraded to Vulnerable or even worse.

Kiran’s birth is very important for greater one-horned rhino conservation, also known as the Indian rhino, as the species is currently listed as Vulnerable on IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and there are only approximately 3,500 left in the wild.  Declined to near extinction in the early 1900’s the greater one-horned rhino was once listed as Endangered however, with conservation efforts and strict protection, it was down listed to Vulnerable. This is considered a conservation success story but they are not out of the woods. Habitat degradation, human rhino conflict, and poaching continue to be threats.  The greater one-horned rhino exists in a few small subpopulations in Nepal and India (West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Assam) inhabiting the riverine grasslands of the Terai and Brahmaputra Basins. With 70 % of the wild population occurring in one area in Kaziranga National Park, any catastrophic event could have a huge impact on conservation efforts for this species.

The Toronto Zoo is part of both the Greater One-Horned Rhino Species Survival Plan (SSP) and White Rhino SSP, which aims to establish and maintain healthy, genetically diverse populations, and overall conservation efforts to save both of these incredible species. One of the Toronto Zoo’s mandates is to educate visitors on current conservation issues and help preserve the incredible biodiversity on the planet. The Toronto Zoo supports rhinoceros conservation efforts in the wild through keeper driven events and the Toronto Zoo Endangered Species Reserve Fund.

Be sure to visit Kiran and mom in the in the indoor Greater One-Horned Rhino Habitat daily from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm*

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