Otto the rhino's first birthday

You OTTO know it’s my birthday!

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Otto was born to proud parents, Eesha and Ongava on April 2nd, 2023. Named in honor of Peter Lang’s father, Otto, our young rhinoceros holds a special place in the hearts of Safari West’s founders, Peter and Nancy. He is the perfect symbol to highlight Safari West’s enduring commitment to wildlife conservation, a cornerstone of our mission for over three decades.

Otto started his life at about 100 pounds, and at one year old he is over 1000 pounds. Our animal staff reported that there was a period of his first year when he was gaining five pounds a day! Otto’s main horn, a tiny bump at birth, is now prominently poking up above his mouth at 5 inches in length.

Otto, the first baby White Rhino born at Safari West searches for his feed text to a cardboard cake made by staff for his 1st birthday at the Santa Rosa animal preserve Tuesday, April 2, 2024. Otto has gained over 1,000 pounds and his horn has grown 5 inches in his first year. (Photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Even with his size increasing almost tenfold, Otto has kept all of his youthful behaviors, zooming around his habitat and playing with his parents. It has been especially fascinating watching interactions with his father Ongava—in the wild, rhino fathers are not typically present for child-rearing, and yet Ongava has some paternal instincts, often seen knocking horns with Otto and gently teaching him how to be a rhino.

Otto’s continued growth and health underscores Safari West’s role in contributing to the expansion of global rhino populations and our dedication to conservation initiatives aimed at safeguarding this imperiled species. Unfortunately, all five species of rhino are under threat in the wild, mostly due to poaching for their horns, which have perceived value as medicine and symbols of status and wealth. With less than 16,000 Southern white rhinos left in the wild at the end of 2023, any rhino growing older is a cause for celebration.

Otto’s birthday celebration perfectly aligns with the spirit of Earth Day, emphasizing the importance of wildlife conservation and inspiring visitors to connect with nature. Safari West warmly welcomes visitors throughout the entire month of April to celebrate Otto’s birth. From enjoying Otto’s adorable antics to learning about the vital role rhinos play in their ecosystem, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Otto the rhino celebrates with keepers and staff his first birthday