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Wednesday, 24 October, 2001, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Rhino thinks van is 'mum'
A white rhino stands next to a Land Rover
The rhino feels more secure with his surrogate mum
A young white rhino at Woburn Safari Park in Bedfordshire has developed a close bond with a ranger's van, according to his handlers.

Otzee, a three-year-old male rhino, who arrived at Woburn a few months ago, was initially chased by another rhino.

So park rangers positioned a Land Rover between Otzee and Arthur, a 33-year-old male rhino, to offer him some protection.

After a few days, the younger animal became quite attached to the vehicle.

A white rhino at Woburn Safari Park
Otzee is looking for a mate

The newcomer is now happiest when standing alongside his "surrogate mother" and follows her everywhere.

"He is of an age that he will follow large objects around, so we used the Land Rover to introduce him to the park's surroundings," said park spokeswoman Cheryl Williams.

When he first arrived in February from West Midlands Safari Park, the young Otzee was chased quite a bit.

"Arthur was showing dominant behaviour. He didn't chase Otzee for very long as he ran out of puff, but he wanted the youngster to know he is at the bottom of the heap."

Endangered species

The other white rhino at the park, Maggot, is also 33 years old.

The Woburn safari park, which opened in 1970, is now looking for a mate for Otzee.

The southern white rhino is an endangered species, of which there are only about 1,400 left in the world, mostly in South Africa.

Otzee is finally being allowed into a compound with the other two rhinos where visitors can see them interact, Ms Williams said.

Click here for more from BBC Three Counties Online
See also:

07 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
African rhino numbers rise
17 Dec 98 | Sci/Tech
Rhinos caught in crossfire
04 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Tourists 'driving species to extinction'
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