Park marks 20 years of helping rhinos

It has been 20 years since the first southern white rhinoceros arrived in South Australia to kick start Zoos SA's breeding program aimed at conserving the species.

Female southern white rhino Uhura moved to South Australia from Singapore as part of international collaboration Operation White Rhino on December 9, 2000.

Fast-forward two decades later and Monarto Safari Park has bred seven rhino calves and house six rhinos, including three adult females, two adult males, and little Eshe, who was born in 2020.

Long-standing Zoos SA employee and rhino enthusiast Geoff Brooks has seen the arrival of every rhino since Operation White Rhino was introduced at Monarto.

He said he felt privileged to have known all 13 southern white rhinos that have lived at Monarto.

"There's a saying that to import an animal into Australia, the paperwork must first equal the weight of the animal, and with Uhura and later rhinos this was no exception," he said.

"There's nothing more unforgettable than being there shortly after a birth and watching a newborn calf take their first shaky steps on skinny legs while trying to come to terms with their seemingly oversized feet."

Monarto Safari Park director Peter Clark said the charismatic mammal represented vital conservation efforts taking place globally, and was keen to have more of them at Monarto.

"Our Anthony Taylor Rhino Quarantine and Management Centre is almost complete, which brings us one step closer to being able to house an insurance population of up to 40 Southern White Rhinos here at the park where they'll be safe from poaching," he said.

"To have a space where we can grow the breeding program even more is not only exciting, but integral for our contribution to saving this species from extinction."

It is thought that there are less than 15,000 surviving southern white rhinos, with poachers and the rhino horn trade remaining one of the wild population's biggest threats.