Molly is the newest addition to the Rhino family at Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens. She is the eighth Rhino calf to be born at the Burford collection and is Monty and Ruby’s fourth breeding success together. Births in captivity are considered rare, with only nineteen White Rhinos being born in European zoos in the last twelve months. Her birth is testament to the dedication of the mammal keepers and the Park’s commitment to the European Breeding Programme (EEP).
White Rhinos have always been an important species at the Park and considerable thought is given to naming these iconic animals. Previous calves have been named after the founder of Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens, Mr. John Heyworth, and highly respected South African conservationist, Ian Player, who spearheaded efforts to rescue the Southern White Rhino from extinction. This time the honour was given to Head Keeper Mark Godwin.
Mark has worked at the Park for 31 years and has looked after the ever-growing ‘crash’ of Rhinos for the last 13 years. This is the first Rhino calf he has named. He decided to call her Molly after his four-year-old daughter (pictured left meeting her namesake). Molly described having a Rhino named after her as “amazing!”. Mark’s family live on-site at Cotswold Wildlife Park and Molly, along with her five-year-old brother Henry, has grown up at the wildlife park and the siblings regularly visit their favourites – the Rhinos. During lockdown when the Park was temporarily closed to the public, they even lent their dad a helping hand by mucking out the Rhinos and Camels. Spending their childhood at the Park has sparked a passion for wildlife and both would like to follow in their father’s footsteps and work with animals when they’re older.
Cotswold Wildlife Park is committed to Rhino conservation and works closely with the UK-based conservation charity Tusk Trust to protect Africa’s many threatened species. In October 2021, Reggie Heyworth, the Park’s Managing Director and a Tusk Trust Ambassador, ran the London Marathon in aid of Tusk Trust and raised over £12,000 for the charity. Reggie Heyworth, explains: “Conservation programmes throughout Africa’s wildlife areas and national parks often depend on income from tourism and support from charities such as Tusk Trust. With so few tourists visiting Africa, it is all the more important for us to support the work of Tusk Trust, who fund over forty programmes throughout sub-Saharan Africa, including vital work to protect rhinos and elephants from poachers”. For more information about Tusk Trust, please visit www.tusk.org.
Visitors can see the new calf daily from 10am in the solar-powered Rhino House or the large Rhino paddock overlooking the Manor House.
- Monty and Ruby are both fifteen years old. In 2009, Ruby (along with another female called Nancy) made the eleven thousand kilometre journey from Mafunyane Game Farm in South Africa to the UK to join young male Monty at their new Oxfordshire home.
- Ruby was named after writer, comedienne and long-time friend of the Park, Ruby Wax, back in 2009.
- Her first calf was born in 2015. He was named Ian in memory of the highly respected South African conservationist, Ian Player, who spearheaded efforts to rescue the Southern White Rhino from extinction. The Park’s original Rhino pair, called Lebombo and Somtuli, arrived from Umfolozi Game Reserve in 1972 as a direct result of Ian’s Rhino conservation initiatives with South Africa’s Natal Parks Board.
- Females only reproduce every two-and-a-half to five years, so the window of opportunity for successful reproduction is limited. After a gestation period of sixteen to eighteen months, a single calf is born.
- These iconic animals were once the rarest of any Rhino species and were on the verge of extinction in the early 1900s, when it was believed only twenty to fifty animals remained in their native African homeland. Thanks to excellent and sustained protection, they are now the most common of the five Rhino species, although poaching in the last five years has once again escalated to serious levels, driven by demand for Rhino horn from the traditional medicine market of China and the Far East. Three of the five Rhino species – the Black, Javan and Sumatran – are critically endangered.
- The collective noun for a group of Rhinos is a ‘crash’.
Cotswold Wildlife Park opens its doors at 10am every day during summer months (April to 31 October), with last admission at 4.00pm (3.00pm for the rest of the year).