A southern white rhino calf born at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro earlier this winter has expressive fluttering ears and, according to zookeepers, particularly big feet. Now she has the name to go with that solid footing.
A zoo employee won the chance to choose the calf’s name in a drawing, and picked “Mguu” — pronounced mmm-GOO — the Swahili word for "feet."
“She is just a ball of energy. Before she was named Mguu, they had nicknamed her Scooter because she was just all over the place,” says zoo spokesperson Debbie Foster Fuchs.
Born to Stormy and mother Kit, Mguu is now the ninth member of the zoo’s rhino herd and the third southern white rhino born at the zoo in the last two years. This spring, she’ll make her debut for visitors and join much of the herd on the zoo’s 40-acre Watani Grasslands habitat.
“They found that the rhinos do much better in multigenerational situations. We have mothers, aunts and nieces, they're very much a herd animal,” says Foster Fuchs about the zoo’s growing rhino family.
The southern white rhino is considered “near threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. According to the zoo, they were hunted to near extinction at the beginning of the 1900s, partly because their horns were believed to have medicinal properties. Their numbers are on the rise, but the species still faces significant dangers.
“There's still a huge poaching problem in Africa for their horns,” said Foster Fuchs. “One way to fight that is education that the rhino horns do not contain any kind of magical or special powers or ingredients.”
When it comes to protecting the southern white rhino in the wild, the NC Zoo is a founding member of the SMART Partnership — or Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool. The open-source software helps rangers on the ground identify possible poaching activity, and alert others to the risk to wildlife.
As for Mguu, she has a big legacy to live up to as an ambassador for her herd, but for now she is focused on finding her footing.