An Indian rhino calf born at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium is the first rhino born at the zoo in its 120-year history, officials said Wednesday.

The rhino, born Friday, is “one of the most important births for the zoo in recent history,” said Dennis Pate, the zoo’s director and CEO. “It counts when it comes to sustaining this species in zoos, it counts as a backup to vulnerable wild populations and it counts in drawing people to include animals as part of our heritage.”

Zoo visitors can find the rhino calf’s parents, Hellary and Jontu, in the Asian Highlands. Hellary is 11 and has lived at the zoo since 2012, the zoo said in a press release. Jontu also is 11 and arrived at the zoo in 2008.

Both parents weigh about 4,200 pounds, zoo officials said, noting that this is the first birth for Hellary.

The calf, believed to be male, is bonding with its mother in a private area where animal care staffers can closely observe the pair to ensure he is nursing.

The calf weighed approximately 120 pounds at birth and currently weighs 140 pounds, the zoo said.

The calf doesn’t have a name yet. He will be named at a zoo fundraiser, Zoofari, on Sept. 13.

“There was a steep learning curve to find the right timing for sparks to fly between these first-time rhino parents,” said Monica Stoops, the zoo’s lead reproduction scientist. “Animal care staff were dedicated to trying different introduction techniques to ensure this new rhino breeding pair succeeded.”

The calf was born after a gestation period of about 16 months.

Indian rhinos are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. Only 3,500 to 3,600 Indian rhinos are left in the world. This calf is the 82nd Indian rhino living in the United States, the zoo said.

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Bob Glissmann helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow him on Twitter @BobGlissmann. Phone: 402-444-1109.

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