Chester Zoo’s two-month-old black rhino calf has been enjoying his first mud bath.

Bolshie little Gabe has been captured on video slipping and sliding in the mud as he charged around with his 13-year-old mum Ema Elsa.

Kim Wood, assistant team manager of rhinos at Chester Zoo , said: “Rhinos love nothing more than to roll around and play in fresh mud and it was great to see Gabe charge right in and enjoy getting messy.

“With the start of spring bringing in some warmer weather, wallowing in mud is great way for our rhinos to cool off and it also helps to keep the rhinos’ skin nice and healthy. We really do give them the five star spa treatment!

“We’re really pleased with how Gabe is developing. He’s gaining in confidence with every passing day and helping us to raise more awareness of the terrible plight that his species is facing up to in the wild where, sadly, the Eastern black rhino is being illegally hunted to very edge of extinction.”

Gabe the rhino playing in the mud at Chester Zoo


Black rhino populations have dropped by more than 95% over the last 50 years due to a global surge in illegal poaching for their horns, which continues to devastate the species.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the animals as critically endangered since 2000 with their wild numbers currently estimated at just 740 across Africa.

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Kim explains: “There is increasing demand for rhino horn in some Asian countries where it’s believed to have healing properties, even though it’s made mainly from keratin, the same material as fingernails.

"It’s pushed its value through the roof – rhino horn fetches more per gram on the black market than both gold and cocaine. As a result, rhinos across Africa are being slaughtered on a daily basis. After having their horns hacked off, they are left to slowly die.


Gabe the rhino enjoys a mud bath at Chester Zoo


“Rhinos have been on our planet for five million years and it’s absolutely imperative that we do whatever we can to protect them. We must not let them become just another addition to the ongoing list of magnificent animals to become extinct in our lifetime.”

Chester Zoo is one of just a handful of institutions in the world that is working with conservation organisations in Africa - including Save the Rhino International and the International Rhino Foundation - to ensure the long-term survival of rhinos in the wild.

Areas of the zoo’s support, both through funding and through the provision of its expertise, include Tsavo, Chyulu and Laikipia in Kenya and Mkomazi in Tanzania.

The zoo is also responsible for coordinating the breeding programme for the species in zoos across the whole of Europe, which is working to maintain a genetically viable insurance population of the species.