Safari West welcomes the birth of their first Southern White Rhinoceros calf

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Eesha’s male calf was born on Sunday, April 2nd at 5:30 p.m.

The story of this remarkable calf’s birth started in the summer of 2008, when Eesha arrived at Safari West as a four year old.

For 14 years, Safari West hoped Eesha might contribute to the growth of global rhino populations herself, but she never showed much interest in the male rhinos.


All that changed in 2021 when a new male, and proven breeder, Ongava was brought in from another zoo.

Ongava arrives.

Safari West founder and owner Peter Lang greeting Ongava and Eesha.
Eesha and Ongava.

Eesha was pregnant within 6 months. There is a 16- to 18-month gestation period for rhinos. Within two years there was a calf.

Safari West Veterinarian Dr. Emily Chers monitored Eesha’s calf with sonograms.
The animal care team: Nikki Smith, Erika Defer and Lori McNeal with Dr. Chers took thermal images of vulva, teats and sides of Eesha’s body once a week with the thermography camera. The team used these images to compare baby movement and heat signature changes.

Eesha’s calf was estimated to weigh 100 pounds at birth.

Rhinos have become an integral part of Safari West’s mission of conservation education, and Safari West hopes this birth will raise awareness of the fight to protect rhinos. It’s an urgent mission.

All five species of rhino are struggling in the wild — the International Rhino Foundation’s 2022 State of the Rhino Report reveals three species are critically endangered, with two of those species having populations of less than 100 individuals left in the world.

The white rhino, the species at Safari West, is currently doing the best in the wild, but “best” means a declining population of approximately 16,000 rhinos. What has caused the decline in rhino populations?  Poaching for their horns, which have perceived value as medicine and symbols of status and wealth.

In the late 1980s, Peter Lang purchased a 400-acre cattle ranch in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains in Santa Rosa, California.

His plan was to establish captive breeding programs for the varied and often critically endangered species he had been collecting. He worked closely with local zoological facilities, including the San Francisco Zoo, where he met the lead curator, raptor-specialist, and his future wife, Dr. Nancy Lang.

Combining their unique skill-sets, the pair set about turning this vast swath of oak woodland into a world-class wildlife preserve.

Dr. Nancy and Peter Lang.

Peter’s love affair with wildlife has been a lifelong interest. As a boy, he spent many days running around Hollywood back lots and sound stages while his father, Otto Lang, directed films and TV shows. Many, like “Daktari” and “Sea Hunt,” featured lions and chimpanzees … animals that fascinated Peter.

In the early 1950s Peter brought lion cubs home to be hand reared. He occasionally took a lion cub on a public bus from his home in West Hollywood to Will Rodgers State Beach, the end of the line on Sunset Boulevard, where they romped on the beach and caused quite a stir. These personal encounters sparked a deep-seated passion that would eventually find expression in the hills and savannas of Safari West.

The mission of Safari West is to actively promote conservation and environmental education while imparting knowledge that helps each individual make well-informed choices in regard to the environment and wildlife conservation.

Safari trucks ready for visitors.
Authentic African Safari Trucks.
Gathering for lunch at Safari West with Nancy and Peter Lang.

At Safari West, it’s all about the animals. Always has been, always will be.

Here are some of the residents at Safari West:

Several Cheetahs live at Safari West. The word “cheetah” comes from “chita,” a Hindu word meaning spotted.
The black “smudge” lines that appear underneath football and baseball players’ eyes are adapted from the tear mark on the face of the cheetah. This dark lone helps reduce glare from sunlight.
The pattern of spots on a cheetah’s coat is unique to the individual, and may be used by biologists for identification.

It is a myth that porcupines shoot their quills. Porcupines defend themselves by spreading their quills and backing into their target, releasing their quills upon contact. Bacteria found on the quills get into the blood of the attacker and may be fatal.
Unlike the porcupines found in North America, crested porcupines’ quills are not barbed.
Kudu and giraffe.

The roan antelope is one of Africa’s largest bovids. It has a grey or brown coat, a black-and-white clown-like facemask — that is darker in males than females — and long, tasseled ears. Both sexes have backward-curving horns, although they are shorter in the females.

Nursing calf.

Giraffe are the world’s tallest mammal. There have been 50 giraffe births at Safari West.
The Swahili name for a giraffe is “Twiga.”
The giraffe heart can weigh up to 25 pounds and pump up to 20 gallons of blood per minute.
The pattern for an individual giraffe is constant throughout their life but the coat color may change depending on age and health. The giraffe’s incredibly long neck contains seven elongated vertebrae, the same number as in a human neck.
At birth calves stand up to about 6.5 feet tall and weigh 110-200 pounds. Both males and females have spotted coats, with varying patterns and colors depending on the subspecies.
A five-day-old calf in the cozy giraffe barn with her mom.

One population of demoiselle cranes migrates over the Himalaya mountains to winter in India, flying to an altitude of 26,000 feet.
Demoiselle cranes are the smallest crane species.

The weight of a hornbill’s casque and bill are so heavy that their first two neck vertebrae are fused to support the weight.

Their bill is stained red-yellow and orange by preening oil from a gland at the base of their tail.


Southern ground hornbill booms are so loud they are sometimes mistaken for the roaring of lions.

Often the first sign of an approaching hornbill is the rhythmic chuffing sound made by their wings as they fly through the air, which can be heard at long range.

Some of my family touring Safari West with Peter Lang.

Scarlet Ibis. The young are first featherless, and then grow dark brown feathers, which slowly change to the red of their parents as they age. Scarlet Ibis are not very vocal, making grunting or croaking sounds when at breeding sites.

Cape thick-knees are nocturnal predators, they spend their time solitarily or in pairs.

Scarlet Ibis and Cape thick-knees roam free.

White Storks travel the furthest on migration of all the large birds that migrate; some travel 10,800 miles from Scandinavia to South Africa and back. They frequently reuse the same nest and often nest near where they hatched. White Storks do not mind flying over the Sahara Desert; they fly across without stopping White Storks typically have a good relationship with humans. They are the “baby-carrying” bird of myth. Ancient Greeks also believed them to care for their elderly parents.
Flamingo nests are mud mounds that they build by using their beak as a shovel, scraping mud into a pile and then creating a depression at the top where the egg is laid. Both the father and mother will take turns sitting on the nest. Flamingo chicks are fed “crop-milk,” a highly nutritious liquid made from the parent’s sloughed off esophagus lining. It is red because of the carotenoid pigments it contains.
A flamboyance of flamingos.

Cape buffalo horns are an indication of age and sex. Males have a horn that forms a massive shield across their forehead, known as a boss. This horn protects the skull in adult males while they are fighting.

Grooming is an important part of social bonding. Unique to lemurs, a ‘tooth comb’ is also used for grooming. Smell is a critical form of lemur communication. Scent glands are found on their wrists and chests.

Ring-tailed Lemur.

Zebra stripe patterns are as distinctive as human fingerprints, and scientists can identify individual zebra by comparing patterns, stripes, and color. While several attempts have been made over the last two centuries, zebras have never been successfully domesticated. Zebra crossings (pedestrian crossings) are named after the black and white stripes of zebras.
Warthogs wallow in mud daily to keep cool. Bonds between females are strong, and females will nurse each other’s young. When warthogs bed down for the night, they back into their burrows. When they exit in the morning, they burst out, loudly snorting and swinging their heads back and forth.
In spite of their reputation as nasty, dirty animals, hyenas are a vital part of the ecosystem. Hyenas, like other decomposers (i.e. vultures) are part of the clean-up crew and help to control the spread of diseases throughout their range.
Hyenas are often mistaken as dogs, or sometimes even misrepresented as being part of the cat family. The most well-known hyena species is the spotted (or “laughing”) hyena, known for its aggressive social life. Striped hyenas, brown hyenas, and aardwolves live in small groups or in pairs and hunt for small prey (i.e. insects) or passively scavenge carrion.
Caracals have exceptional hearing and are known to pinpoint prey by their hearing alone.
Caracals are known as a generalist species, meaning they are able to successfully hunt a wide variety of prey and thrive in a wide variety of habitats.
Red river hogs.

Watusi cattle.

When fennec fox kits are born, their ears are folded flat to their heads and only lift and unfold after 10 days.

The name “fennec” is derived from the Arabic word “fanak,’ which means “fox.”
After dinner ~ S’mores with Peter Lang.

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Photographs by Will Bucquoy, Mark Pressler, Ray Mabry, Nate Woodard, Nikki Smith, Paige Peterson, and Peter Cary Peterson.

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