Dakima pregnancy update

Baby’s first scan! First glimpse of our baby rhino captured in ultrasound footage.

As our pregnant rhino Dakima’s due date nears, our keepers have been busy ensuring we’re ready for baby’s arrival. In the last few weeks there’s been an ultrasound scan, the preparation of birth plans and the small matter of baby-proofing the rhino enclosure!

So, how do you perform an ultrasound on a rhino? Well, in order to access an ultrasound scanner large enough to do the job, our keepers approached horse vets at locally based Cotts Equine.

This was the first ultrasound that equine vet Graham Fowce had performed on a rhino so our keepers worked with Dakima and Graham well in advance to ensure it was a comfortable experience for everyone involved.

“The anatomy of a rhino is similar enough to a horse so, when I was asked about an ultrasound, I was confident we’d be able to do it. I dressed in one of their Folly Farm uniforms so I would smell familiar to Dakima. She’d been well trained to stand still, they’d even practiced putting gel on her stomach to get her used to the feeling and smell. Similar to humans we can never be 100% sure what we can see on the screen. We’re pretty sure the images show the baby’s limbs and Dakima’s womb – as long as we can detect movement and a strong heartbeat, we know they are both doing well.” – Graham Fowce, equine vet

With a matter of weeks to go until the birth, keepers are busy nesting ahead of the new arrival. For the past few months, they’ve been baby-proofing the enclosure and preparing birth plans. All being well, Dakima is expected to give birth in January 2020.

“Dakima’s pregnancy seems to be going particularly well. She’s a healthy weight and we can see the baby moving around in her stomach which is pretty cool. The keepers have been busy ‘baby-proofing’ the enclosure, Kirafu Reserve, making sure there’s no sharp corners, creating a bigger and softer bed and securing the enclosure with additional fencing to stop baby squeezing through the large bars.

We’ve also installed extra heaters to keep the enclosure warm and cosy in the cold weather. Lots of babies are born at Folly Farm every year, but this time the stakes are particularly high, so this is definitely the most stressful pregnancy we’ve had. Dakima is a first-time mum so, just like with any first pregnancy, we’re probably being overly cautious preparing for every eventuality.

Most animals give birth overnight under the cover of darkness when it’s safer from predators, we’ve installed CCTV in the enclosure so we can keep an eye on Dakima and hopefully capture the birth on camera. Our best-case scenario is that she gives birth quietly on her own with no intervention, like she would do in the wild.” – Tim Morphew, zoo curator

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