The coincidental timing of the release of this data and the birth of a calf in Copenhagen is especially significant in rendering the calf a symbol for the species as a whole. The birth provides hope for the successful conservation of the species after a year of devastating losses. Just last month, Melbourne's Werribee Open Range Zoo welcomed a southern white rhino, commenting that it was a milestone for worldwide conservation efforts. Due to the popularity of baby animals, despite the controversies surrounding zoos, there is the potential that this calf, like others, will become a focus of public awareness about the fragility of animal life as well as mobilizing support for conservation efforts.
For those with an eye on the plight of endangered species, the birth of an animal represents a species moving, if only momentarily, away from the brink. It shows that species loss and conservation are not just about facts and figures but about the physical lives of individual animals. Each birth has the potential to make an impact not only on the numbers of creatures surviving worldwide, but also on our awareness of the threats facing wildlife. The survival of species is totally dependent on each and every animal.
Like so many other species, the southern white rhino faces a staggering array of threats to both its body and habitat. Despite this, global conservation programs and large numbers of people more widely refuse to give up on the possibility of saving species under threat. The southern white rhino epitomizes this mentality. There are both internal and external forces working together alongside continued government funded anti-poaching initiatives in the face of what appears to be the accelerating depletion of wild populations.
The birth of animals of a threatened or endangered species highlights just how important an individual animal really can be. Not only are their bodies a part of the physical mass of species, but their ability to influence ideas about conservation, and the way they can encourage us to make connections between our own lives and the wild places makes them absolutely critical if we are to stop species disappearing. And yet, the indeterminate value of individual animals, as Copenhagen Zoo so clearly demonstrates, means that, for the animal, the practical reality of life in a breeding program has the potential to be little different from the precarious life of animals in the wild.