Rambunctious rhino's name links NZ to Africa

(Hamilton Zoo / supplied)
(Hamilton Zoo / supplied)

The newest rhino calf to be born at Hamilton Zoo has been named after the African people who live amongst his kind.

Samburu was born in late June to third-time mum Kito after a 16-month long pregnancy.

"He's a cheeky little fella," the zoo's visitor experience manager Dave Smart told TV3's The Café.

"Like any little boy, he goes hard, he runs around, he gives everybody grief - and then he goes to sleep."

While the male southern white rhino was born in New Zealand, his name links back to his natural habitat in Africa.

"The Samburu people are pastoralists who live in the Rift Valley province of Northern Kenya, part of the natural range of the white rhino," says Catherine Nichols, the zoo's acting curator.

The current herd at Hamilton Zoo grew to six when Samburu was born, though there have been seven born there.

Kito's calf Ubuntu, born in 2010, was sent to the National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra along with another male, Kifaru. Two other males, Inkosi and Mtoto, have been taken to Auckland Zoo.

Females Imani and Jamila remain at Hamilton Zoo, completing the herd with Samburu's father Kruger and Jamila's mother Moesha.

While Samburu isn't part of the zoo's rhino encounters yet, the public does have an opportunity to get up close with him.

The zoo is raising funds for the Hamilton Zoo Conservation Fund, which supports conservation projects both in New Zealand and overseas, with a special Trade Me auction launching this week.

The auction offers a unique rhino experience, the zoo says.

Footprint artwork from Samburu and Kito is included in the experience along with a rhino 'Eye2Eye' encounter and a chance to get up close with the two white rhinos.

"Samburu is not taking part in the rhino encounters yet so this will be the first chance for a member of the public to get up close to him, which is pretty exciting," Ms Nichols says.

The species was decimated by hunters and thought to be extinct in the late 19th century, but a small population of fewer than 100 were found in South Africa in 1895.

Since then, after 121 years of protection and management, they're considered "near threatened" in the wild.

The animals, which now number around 20,000 in game reserves and protected areas, are still hunted for their horns which are said to contain medicinal properties.