Zoo Atlanta is getting closer to the April 11 name reveal of its southern white rhino calf, born Dec. 24, 2023 — Christmas Eve — to mother Kiazi.

The names for the rhino calf have been decided on through an activity, Rhino Naming Madness, in honor of the NCAA sports tournament March Madness.

Zoo Atlanta’s Director of Communications, Rachel Davis, explains that the zoo wanted to “do something fun and fresh with her name and get the public excited” when they decided on the naming bracket.

The southern white rhino calf.

The southern white rhino calf.

Credit: Courtesy of Zoo Atlanta

“This is the first southern white rhino that we’ve ever had born at the zoo,” she said. “So, it was very exciting, and our team got with the rhino care team and had a big brainstorming meeting to discuss how this is important to us. That’s how this idea came about, given the March timing.”

From March 7 to April 11, the public has been allowed to vote on names for the rhino calf in four rounds.

  • March 20: Brackets launched and Round 1 of voting opened at 1 p.m., ending Tuesday, March 26 at 11:59 p.m.
  • March 27: Round 2 of voting opened at 1 p.m., ending April 2 at 11:59 p.m.
  • April 3: Round 3 of voting opened at 1 p.m. and ends Sunday, April 7 at 11:59 p.m. EST.
  • April 8: Final round of voting opens at 1 p.m. and ends Wednesday, April 10 at 11:59 p.m.
  • April 11: Name announced!
The Rhino Naming Madness bracket.

The Rhino Naming Madness bracket.

Credit: Zoo Atlanta

To start Sweet Sixteen, in honor of the 16 college basketball teams that made it to the NCAA March Madness tournament, the Rhino Care Team, the animal care professionals taking care of the rhinos, entered nine names in the drawing.

Zoo Atlanta received over 4,000 online submissions from March 7 to March 10 to compete with the Rhino Care Team’s names. Out of the 4,000 submissions, Zoo Atlanta’s naming committee selected seven names to create their Sweet Sixteen.

“[The naming committee] looked at things like if a name had a particular meaning or other factors,” Davis said. “We wanted to make sure that this charismatic, beautiful wild animal was going to have a name that the Rhino Care Team was happy with.”

In addition to naming the rhino calf, the bracket has helped raise awareness of the southern white rhino species.

“We hope that the more connected people feel to the calf, the more they are likely to hopefully learn more about what they can do to help her species in the wild,” Davis said.

Southern white rhinos are classified as near-threatened species, meaning they are “likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future,” per the U.S. Geological Survey.

“All of the remaining rhino species have severe challenges in the wild,” Davis said. “One of the specific threats that southern white rhinos have is that, even though they are not the most endangered of all the rhinos, they typically can travel in herds in the wild. That makes it easier, unfortunately, for poachers to locate them.”

For the first few weeks after her birth, the team allowed the calf and her mother, Kiazi, to be behind the scenes and bond with each other. Since mid to late February, the rhino calf has publicly appeared at the Delta Air Lines Rhino Habitat.

The southern white rhino mother, Kiazi, stands next to her calf.

The southern white rhino mother (left), Kiazi, stands next to her calf (right).

Credit: Courtesy of Zoo Atlanta

Davis says that while there is no guarantee that people will see the 400-pound calf, many people have seen her in the past few months.

“What limits her ability to be out sometimes is that we have her father, who has not met the calf and another adult female,” she said. “She’s been visible a lot more lately, and anybody who has seen her can contest that she is darling.”

Davis adds, "She is a very excited and busy baby. She loves running and being very active. Her mom has done all the right things to make sure that she is safe and her surroundings are safe."

Zoo Atlanta encourages the public to stay tuned to their social media content on April 11 for video content with the Rhino Care Team, the calf, and the name announcement.

The public can vote for the third round between Zahara and Zuri or Isa and Adia.

"We can't wait to tell everybody what we're going to call this very special new arrival," Davis said.