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Rare Rhino Born at the Great Plains Zoo

The Great Plains Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of a rare Eastern Black Rhino calf. The Zoo’s 13-year-old Eastern Black Rhino “Imara” recently gave birth to her second calf, a male weighing 92 pounds. The zoo is inviting the public to help name the calf.  After a 15-month gestation, rhinos give birth to a single calf.  The calf typically weighs between 80-100 pounds. “Black rhinos are on the brink of extinction, so this is a very important birth, not only for the Zoo, but for the survival of the entire Eastern Black Rhino population,” said Elizabeth A. Whealy, President and CEO of the Great Plains Zoo.  “Our Zoo plays a crucial role in maintaining the captive breeding population.”





Photo credits: Great Plains Zoo

Eastern Black Rhinos are critically endangered, with fewer than 4,000 surviving in the wild.  During the last century, the black rhino has suffered the most drastic decline in total numbers for all rhino species.  In 1970, there were an estimated 65,000 black rhinos in Africa – but by 1993 there were only 2,300 surviving in the wild.  That’s more than a 95 percent reduction.

Rhinos really don’t have any natural predators; humans are the only enemy of the rhino. Poachers seek their horns because of the price the horns fetch on the black market.  Rhino horn is worth about three-times its weight in gold.  These days, well-organized gangs poach rhinos even from protected reserves, sometimes using tranquilizer guns and helicopters.  Many cultures believe the horn has medicinal properties, but it does not.  Rhino horn is composed of keratin, the same substance that makes up human fingernails and hair.

The Great Plains Zoo is a key breeder contributing to the success of Eastern Black Rhinos; it now has three of only 68 Eastern Black Rhinos in captivity in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos in the U.S.  Imara and her mate “Jubba” were one of 15 pairs of Eastern Black Rhinos recommended to breed in 2009-2010.  The Zoo’s calf was one of four Eastern Black Rhinos born this year.

The new “Rare Rhinos of Africa” exhibit building’s night-time quarters includes a comfortable birthing space, and an area for the Zoo’s animal care staff to observe the birth.  A camera system was also installed in the facility, allowing Zookeepers to monitor the new family remotely. Family structure dictates male and female rhinos do not live together after a calf is born, so the exhibit includes spacious indoor and outdoor areas for the father as well.

The “Rare Rhinos of Africa” exhibit engages and excites visitors about Africa, rhinos and conservation through a number of interactive and immersive experiences.  Guests learn about the the importance of these animals, and how they fit into the world.  They are able to put on a pair of rhino ears to learn about a rhino’s super sense of hearing, or touch a rhino’s crinkly skin at learning stations in the new exhibit.  These educational pieces help visitors make special connections to these animals.

Just like human newborns, the calf will spend much of his time sleeping, eating and settling in with his mother.  He is expected to be on exhibit in the rhino day room, viewable by the public, in the next several weeks.  Visitors can see the father, Jubba, in the exhibit daily.