Israeli Rhino Has Third Child, in Secret

Rihanna the rhino had a baby boy where the waterbucks usually go - and now he's been named after Israel's outgoing president Reuven "Rubi" Rivlin

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A new baby rhino, who has not yet been named, walks next to his mother, 11-year-old Rihanna, at the Ramat Gan Safari Park, near Tel Aviv, Israel
A new baby rhino, who has not yet been named, walks next to his mother, 11-year-old Rihanna, at the Ramat Gan Safari Park, near Tel Aviv, IsraelCredit: Ramat Gan Safari Park

Rihanna the Rhino birthed her third baby on Sunday morning in the open savannah area, Israel's Ramat Gan Safari Park happily announced. The infant has been named after Israel's outgoing president, Reuven "Rubi" Rivlin, the zoo announced on Monday.

"We received thousands of suggestions for his name,"  Safari spokeswoman Sagit Horowitz says. "Ultimately the Safari's names committee decided on Rubi, after the outgoing president of Israel. This wonderful name will accompany this baby rhino his whole life, even after he leaves the zoo for another one and perpetuates his line."

Rihanna the rhino stands beside her new infant at Ramat Gan Safari today. Credit: Ramat Gan Safari Park

And why did they choose that name? Because like the outgoing president, the wee rhino is a rarity and special to boot, making people smile wherever he goes, the zoo explained. 

Rihanna's two elder children are named Rami and Rainy Rafiki - altogether she has had two sons and a daughter. 

Rami moved to Switzerland about a year and a half ago, as rhinos do. But Rainy Rafiki's still there.

Rihanna the rhino stands beside her new infanRihanna the rhino stands beside her new, unnamed infant at Ramat Gan Safari Park today. Credit: Ramat Gan Safari Park

Rihanna, aged 11, had gone into an especially bushy part of the savannah area – a huge expanse enclosed by a hefty wall – to give birth. The zookeepers only noticed that the deed had been done because Rainy Rafiki was acting weird, Horowitz explained to Haaretz.

A new baby rhino, who has not yet been named, walks next to his mother, 11-year-old Rihanna, at the Ramat Gan Safari Park zoo, near Tel Aviv, Israel, todayCredit: Reuters/Corinna Kern

All told, the Safari now has 10 rhinos, including the new and yet-unnamed infant. The father is called Atari.

"We knew she was pregnant," Horowitz explained, adding that the Safari also knew a rhinoceros gestation period is typically a year and a half. "We waited for the birth and this morning, the keepers witnessed something amazing – Rainy Rafiki in the compound, where waterbucks also like to give birth. Rainy was trying to approach her mother, but her mother was pushing her away."

A new baby rhino, who has not yet been named, walks next to his mother, 11-year-old Rihanna, at the Ramat Gan Safari Park, near Tel Aviv, IsraelCredit: Ramat Gan Safari Park

Rainy is now two years and two months old and long weaned. She can manage perfectly well without her mother but had stayed close until now.

And then something even more amazing happened. A childless rhino named Karnabella took Rainy Rafiki under her wing. "It's like Karnabella runs a daycare," Horowitz related. "When a new baby rhino is born, she takes over the older kids."

The zoo may isolate Rihanna and the baby in the future but right now they're still in the open savannah with everyone else. "We do intend to try to lead them to the rhino maternity ward, and if Rihanna wants that, great. If she doesn't, we won't force it," Horowitz told Haaretz.

"This is the 33rd rhino born at the Safari," Horowitz said. The kids generally get placed with zoos around the world, for the sake of perpetuating the species through breeding programs. 

The rhinos at the Israeli zoo are the square lipped (southern white) variant, which according to Reuters, are not presently classified as an endangered species. But they remain under threat from poaching, and no, ground rhino horn will absolutely categorically not cure, relieve or alleviate impotence.

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