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Layla the rhino calf wows crowds in Budapest

The world’s first rhino calf born through artificial insemination thrilled scores of children and journalists in her press debut at Budapest Zoo on Thursday.
Zookeeper Peter Czifra watches the Budapest Zoo's new 308-pound southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) calf named Layla in Budapest, Hungary, on Thursday.
Zookeeper Peter Czifra watches the Budapest Zoo's new 308-pound southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) calf named Layla in Budapest, Hungary, on Thursday.Bela Szandelszky / AP
/ Source: Reuters

The world’s first rhino calf born through artificial insemination thrilled scores of children and journalists in her press debut at Budapest Zoo on Thursday.

Layla, a two-and-a-half-month old Southern White Rhino who is Hungary’s answer to celebrity German polar bear cub Knut, at first appeared intimidated by the crowd at her naming ceremony, but later sniffed happily around her paddock.

“Every new life is a miracle and we have had the fortune of being part of an even more special kind when this vigorous and playful calf came to light,” Budapest Zoo Director Ilma Bogsch told journalists.

The rhino was named Layla after a public vote on the zoo website won with 2,593 votes.

Born weighing 127.9 pounds in January, the zoo says Layla is in perfect health and has added 80 kg in just over two months, thanks to the care of zookeepers who adopted the calf after her mother, Lulu, rejected her at birth.

Knut was also rejected by his mother.

“Based upon the first tests she is in top condition, but it is also important to train her socially and today’s event is a good opportunity for that,” zoo vet Endre Sos said.

Sos said the mother, who is pregnant again, regarded Layla as a rival, leading to their early separation.

But the family drama seemed to matter little to Layla and the scores of pre-school children at the zoo, jostling to catch a good view of her.

“It is very cute. I just did not expect it to be so big,” Abraham Vitez, 5, said.

The Southern White Rhino — which is from Africa — was one of the first kind of rhino to reach the brink of extinction in our lifetime, according to the International Rhino Foundation.