A rare Eastern Black Rhino was born September 12 at the Great Plains Zoo. The male calf is the third Rhino born at the Zoo and was the first Eastern Black Rhino, born as part of the Association of Zoos & Aquarium’s (AZA) endangered species breeding program, since 2014. The calf weighed 103 pounds at birth and will be viewable to the public in several weeks.
With the calf and his parents, Jubba and Imara, the Great Plains Zoo now holds three of only 57 Eastern Black Rhinos in North America. It is estimated that fewer than 740 Eastern Black Rhinos are left in the wild, and they are considered to be a critically endangered species. While they do not have natural predators, their numbers are drastically low due in large part to illegal poaching for their valuable horns.
The Zoo is a critical player in the AZA’s endangered species breeding program; the Zoo’s Senior Director of Animal Care, Lisa Smith, is the coordinator for the national Species Survival Plan (SSP). The Zoo’s “Rare Rhinos of Africa” exhibit includes a state-of-the-art breeding facility that was built in 2010. The space was designed to facilitate birthing and care of these large animals, with adaptable birthing suites, in-floor heat, and padded flooring. The Zoo’s veterinarian, vet tech and animal caregivers were able to monitor the mother’s progress toward delivery, both in person and remotely from home, using video cameras and the Internet.
“The baby Rhino’s birth is important for our Zoo, and even more important for the population of Black Rhinos in the Species Survival Plan,” said Elizabeth A. Whealy, President and CEO. “The Zoo is increasing our conservation efforts with zoos around the world to raise awareness of the plight of Rhinos, and to work with partners in the field to protect this amazing animal.”
Jubba and Imara are an important breeding pair. In addition to the new calf, their offspring include Kapuki, a female born in 2005, and Kiano, a male born in 2010. While both Kapuki and Kiano were born at the Great Plains Zoo, both have moved on to become critical breeders within the SSP. Kapuki had her first calf in 2013, and now resides at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, while Kiano’s home is the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa.
The Eastern Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis michaeli), also known as the East African Black Rhinoceros, is a subspecies of the Black Rhino. Its numbers are very low due to poaching for its horn, and it is listed by the IUCN as “Critically Endangered”.
The Eastern Black Rhino is distinguishable from the southern subspecies by its longer, leaner, and more curved horn. Its skin is also very grooved. Diceros bicornis michaeli is also reportedly more aggressive than the other three subspecies of Black Rhino. They are browsers and are usually found in highland forest and savanna habitats.
All three of the Zoo’s Rhinos are a part of the Zoo’s “Rare Rhinos of Africa” exhibit. The Rhinos can be viewed daily, free with Zoo admission. Visit the Great Plains Zoo online at www.greatzoo.org or call 605-367-7003 for more information.