SAFARI Park keepers are celebrating the birth of a second baby southern white rhino in the space of 18 months - and this time, it's a girl.

Following a lengthy pregnancy of 16 months, first-time mother, eight-year-old Keyah, gave birth to the cute youngster shortly before 5.30pm on Friday (September 8) at West Midland Safari Park.

The long-awaited new arrival took around an hour to find her feet and was alert and feeding at around five hours old.

The calf was separated briefly from her mother for a swift health check and, at just 30 hours old, already weighed a whopping 70kg (11 stone).

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The birth is another great success for the Park and its white rhino breeding programme - following the arrival of the baby girl's half-brother, Ekozu, in March last year. In the wild, southern white rhinos face a huge threat due to habitat loss and more commonly, poaching.

Lisa Watkins, head keeper of Ungulates, said: "The team are really pleased that all of their hard work has resulted in this fantastic healthy calf.

"Keyah has taken it in her stride and is proving to be a fantastic mother. The calf is feeding well and settling into the daily routines."

She added: "With the current threats that rhinos are facing in the wild, this birth is even more important to the population as a whole. Breeding in zoological collections provides a valuable safety net for their wild counterparts.

"Over the next few weeks, Keyah and the calf will get used to the great outdoors, first in the paddock and later in the reserves, depending on the weather. Once settled, we will slowly introduce her to the rest of the crash, including her older half-brother, Ekozu."

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The chunky youngster is yet to be named, but keepers will choose a name beginning with 'F', as all the babies born at the Park in 2017 begin with this letter.

The baby is the first female calf to be born at the Park for 15 years and is the newest addition to the Park's small 'crash' of southern white rhinos, made up of four females and two males.

Mother Keyah, was born at CERZA Parc Zoologique Lisieux, in France, and came to the Safari Park in November 2011, as a recommendation from the European Endangered Species Programmes (EEP) to breed with father, 11-year-old Barney.

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