Iowa’s Blank Park Zoo recently announced that Ayana, a six-year-old Eastern Black Rhino, has given birth to an 80-pound female calf.
“This is an extremely significant event, not only in Blank Park Zoo’s 50 year history, but also for this critically endangered animal species,” said Mark Vukovich, Blank Park Zoo CEO.
The birth occurred October 11, and within the first hour, the calf was standing and walking. By two hours old, the calf was attempting to feed: all positive signs of a healthy baby Rhino calf.
The Eastern Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis michaeli) is also known as the East African Black Rhinoceros. A subspecies of the Black Rhino, its numbers are low due to poaching for its horn. Fewer than 1,000 remain (a combined estimate of wild and captive populations). Only two have been born in the United States, this year, and a total of seven in zoos worldwide. The species is currently listed as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
"The Eastern Black Rhino is at a 'tipping point' in the wild, meaning that deaths, mostly due to poaching, will soon outnumber births," said Kevin Drees, director of animal care and conservation. “The captive zoo population plays a role in survival of the species, and Blank Park Zoo has partnered with the International Rhino Foundation to secure the species future. This celebrated birth should raise awareness and bring attention to this critical wildlife situation.”
Blank Park Zoo intends to organize a fund-raising campaign that will offer a chance to name the new baby Rhino.
Zoo officials stated that the baby would not be on public exhibit. Their intention is to allow an appropriate amount of bonding time for mom and baby. The Zoo will, however, be releasing updates via pictures, video and live webcams on its Facebook page located at: www.facebook.com/blankparkzoo and on the Zoo’s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/blankparkzoo .
According to the International Rhino Foundation (www.rhinos.org ): “The Black Rhinoceros has two horns, with the front one being the larger of the two. They can weigh up to 3,000 pounds and be 5.5 feet tall at shoulder height and up to 12.5 feet long if you include the head and body. The Black Rhino has a prehensile lip that is well-suited for grasping branches, leaves and shrubs. This is the species’ most distinguishing characteristic. The Black Rhino lives in Africa, primarily in grasslands, savannahs and tropical bush lands. Female Rhinos reach maturity at four to seven years of age while males reach maturity at seven to ten years. The term ‘black rhino’ is believed to come about because of the color of the soil the rhino covers itself with while wallowing in the mud. Unlike the White Rhino, Black Rhinos are only semi-social and do not live in herds. Between 1970 and 1992, the wild population of this species has decreased by 96 percent. Rhinos are poached for their horns, which are falsely perceived to have medicinal value in some cultures.”