Mother’s Day Came early for an endangered Indian Rhinoceros at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. On May 9th—one day before her own birthday, and three days before Mother’s Day—an Indian Rhinoceros named Jamie gave birth to a male calf. The new calf has been given the Indian name Jiyu, meaning “compassionate friend”, by the Zoo’s Asian animal care team. Mother and calf are spending time together off exhibit for the newborn’s safety and for privacy in bonding. After some heavy rains, the two-week old calf loves playing outside in mud puddles.
“This calf represents our third successful offspring in support of the Indian Rhino management program in North America,” says Dr. Larry Killmar, the Zoo’s vice president of animal science. Jamie’s first offspring, a female named Jaya born in 2009, now resides at Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Wichita and the second offspring, a male named Jahi born in 2011, now resides at Central Florida Zoo in Sanford. All three calves were sired by a male rhino named Arjun.
Photo credits: Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo / David Parkinson
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Indian Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan (SSP), designed to support the conservation of select wildlife species at risk of extinction. Counting the new male calf, there are just fifty four Indian rhinos in AZA-accredited institutions, with an estimated wild population of no more than 2,850.
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The Indian Rhinoceros, also know as the Greater One-horned Rhinoceros, is one of five species of rhinos worldwide and one of three species found in Asia. It is native to the remote, swampy grasslands of India, Assam and Nepal. Weighing several thousand pounds on average, the rhino’s most distinct feature is a single horn on the end of its muzzle (three species have two horns), which is composed of keratin – the same protein that forms human fingernails and hair. The species has a unique upper lip, known as a prehensile lip, which acts as a hook to grasp onto plants and food in its herbivorous diet. Indian Rhinos have been described as having armor-like skin due to the presence of skin folds, however the skin is actually supple due to frequent wallowing in water and mud.
According to Save the Rhino International, an organization that works to conserve viable populations of critically endangered rhinos in Africa and Asia, drastic declines in population numbers have been caused by the illegal rhino horn trade, habitat loss and political conflict over the past few decades. Poaching of rhino horn for the production of traditional Chinese medicine is the greatest threat facing rhino today.