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rhinos

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Rhinos in India Now Thrive in Protected Area

Conservationists say that new video of greater one-horned rhinos in Kaziranga National Park offers new hope for the future. The video was taken in late October by a team of conservationists, visiting the area to survey the success of ongoing anti-poaching efforts supported by San Diego Zoo Global.

Once prevalent throughout southern Asia, the greater one-horned rhino has been significantly affected by poaching for its horns. The entire population of the species is now only found in three national parks, where rhinos are heavily guarded. But although the greater one-horned rhino was reduced to a population of 200 only a few years ago, with the protection of the parks and communities around them, there are now more than 2,400 of this species in Kaziranga. In recent years, additional populations have been introducedthrough collaboration with San Diego Zoo Global experts and the International Rhino Foundationto protected areas in Manas and Orang national parks.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.
 
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NOLA, THE NORTHERN WHITE RHINO, LEAVES AN IMMEASURABLE LEGACY THROUGH HER CONTRIBUTIONS TO SCIENCE

While the death of Nola, a critically endangered northern white rhino who died Nov. 22 at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is still being mourned by those who worked closely with the beloved animal, as well as people from around the globe, scientists at San Diego Zoo Global are focusing on how Nola’s contributions through science could help save her species from extinction.

Taking a science-based approached, Dr. Oliver Ryder, director of genetics and Dr. Barbara Durrant, director of reproductive physiology, and their teams at the San Diego Zoo Conservation for Research Frozen Zoo along with collaborators at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and at the Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Medicine in Berlin, are working to develop and perfect reproductive techniques to save the northern white rhino from extinction.

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“Nola’s unique story of the incredible journey she took in her lifetime and her impact on the world could never be recreated by any facet of science,” stated Dr. Ryder. “However, the information in her DNA – the digitized sequence of her genome – and the living cells that we have saved will serve as a legacy and a crucial tool for our efforts to bring back the northern white rhino from the brink of extinction. We hope what we can learn will also contribute to conservation of other species of rhinoceros.”

Durrant and Ryder, who both knew and worked with Nola for 26 years, obtained tissues samples collected post mortem for banking and establishment of additional cell cultures for the Frozen Zoo. The Frozen Zoo also has genetic material from 11 other northern white rhinos. The genetic material includes semen from two male northern white rhinos but no eggs from females. As expected, due to Nola’s advanced age, no eggs were able to be collected, but her ovarian and uterine tissues were saved.

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“Although Nola did not reproduce in her long lifetime, she touched the hearts of everyone who was fortunate enough to meet her.  In that way she contributed to our mission of saving the northern white rhino by demonstrating the intelligence and gentleness of her species,” stated Durrant.  “It is a great consolation to all who loved her that many of her tissues were collected and frozen for future research and assisted reproduction.  Her passing only strengthens our commitment to develop the technology needed to realize the goal of producing an offspring from Nola’s preserved cells.”

To reach the ultimate goal of successfully producing a northern white rhino, multiple steps must be accomplished. The first step involves sequencing the genomes of the northern white rhinos to clarify the extent of genetic divergence from their closest relative, the southern white rhino. Understanding these differences will assist scientists in guiding assisted reproduction efforts. The next step requires conversion of the cells preserved in the Frozen Zoo to stem cells that could develop into sperm and eggs, a process successfully begun in the laboratory of Dr. Jeanne Loring of Scripps Research Institute and published in 2011.

Reproductive options might include artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, embryo transfer, genetic engineering or a hybrid with a southern white rhino. The reproductive system of rhinos is very complex and there is still much to be learned. San Diego Zoo Global recently opened a new Rhino Rescue Center at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, home to six southern white rhinos, who eventually could serve as surrogates.

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To further Nola’s contributions to science, her body and valuable horns will be sent to the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. for inclusion in the research collections, where they will be maintained in an off-exhibit area with materials from other northern white rhinos. Nola’s physical remains will be preserved so scientists now and in the future can continue to study this magnificent species.

The 41-year-old Nola had been on around-the-clock watch since Nov. 17 when her keepers noticed she began showing signs of a reduced appetite and activity level. Her condition worsened significantly in the early hours of Sunday, Nov. 22, and the Safari Park’s animal care team made the difficult decision to euthanize her.

Nola’s death leaves three northern white rhinos remaining: a 43-year-old male, Sudan, and two females, 26-year-old Najin and 15-year-old Fatu, living under human care at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. These rhinos all have reproductive issues.

Northern white rhinos have been brought to the brink of extinction due to poaching in Africa.  Rhinos are poached for their horn, which is made of keratin—the same material that forms human fingernails. Rhino horn has been erroneously thought to have medicinal value and is used in traditional remedies in some Asian cultures. In addition, objects made of rhino horn have more recently become a “status symbol,” purchased to display someone’s success and wealth, because the rhino is now so rare and endangered.

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A Tribute To Nola

We lost an icon on Sunday, November 22: Nola, one of only four northern white rhinos left in the world. Here is part of her story.

For over 26 years, Nola called the San Diego Zoo Safari Park home. As most of us know, she arrived here from the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic in 1989, with her coalition partner, Nadi. Neither female had reproduced; both were entering their late teens, a time when most rhino females have already had several calves. Nola and Nadi took quickly to the large open exhibits of the Safari Park. They learned to enjoy the California sun and the large expansive pond in the exhibit. Unfortunately, they never fulfilled the dreams that researchers, curators and keepers had for them. Neither female showed consistent interest in the male northern white rhinos—Dinka, Saut, and Angalifu—they shared their exhibit with. Very little mating behavior took place, and as a result, the northern white rhino is one of the very few animals we have not bred successfully at the Safari Park.

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While Nola never had a calf, she always had a following. At first it was her keeper staff who had the opportunity to know her intimately. Nola arrived with a hoof problem that required regular hands-on care. Nola’s nails curved upward, so they did not wear down normally. As a result, keepers had to perform nail trims on her so she could walk less flat-footed—something that, had she been left in the wild, might have led to her early demise. Nola received pedicures throughout her entire life, at the hands of her keepers. Nola learned early on to trust the humans around her—they always looked out for her well-being.

Because Nola was so tractable, she became an artist! A few years ago, she started “painting” by rubbing her horn on canvases with children’s nontoxic paints. Keepers learned that not all children’s paints are the same! She actually had preferences for one brand over another, based on the smell. Rhinos have very good noses, and she made her preferences known. As most of us know, she went on to paint pictures for auctions and rhino fund-raising campaigns. She also painted a piece for the state capitol, which was presented to Toni Atkins, speaker of the California State Assembly.

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The last group of northern white rhinos in the wild was wiped out by poachers around 2008. But it has been the deaths of three northern white rhinos in zoos that have spurred many people into action. In October 2014, 34-year-old Suni died in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, leaving six northern white rhinos in the world. Then in December 2014, our beloved Angalifu (Angi to his keepers) died here at the Safari Park, leaving five. In July 2015, we lost female Nabire at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. She was one of only four northern white rhinos ever born in captivity. And now with the loss of Nola, we are down to three northern white rhinos in existence on the planet, all at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Where you and I come in is with San Diego Zoo Global’s Rhino Rescue Center. If technology continues down the exponential path it has taken of late, there is hope for the northern white rhino. We already have the DNA of 12 northern white rhinos in our Frozen Zoo®. What we need to do next is develop assisted reproduction techniques, like those we use in humans and other animals. Also, if the northern white rhino is to make a comeback, it is because a southern white rhino helps. The Rhino Rescue Center is home to six southern white rhinos. One of these southern white rhinos could be the surrogate mother for a northern white rhino, carrying the calf for their cousin, and then rearing that calf. It is possible that someday the northern white rhino could make a comeback, right in our own backyard. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

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Even though Nola has passed, she gives us something to believe in. She gives us hope and love, but most of all she gives us courage. She’s been so strong for the last few months battling her illness. It’s her “I’m not giving up” attitude that has inspired her keepers to keep on. She wasn’t just passing the time: Nola had been living. Yes, she slept in every morning, and we brought her food to her, and we were there to trim her nails. But Nola enjoyed life. She even had a rhino companion: the 46-year-old southern white rhino bull named Chuck. Their relationship was special, and friendly. Nola and Chuck were two very old rhinos that had found a connection at the end of their days. That’s why we worked so hard to keep them happy—they deserved it. Chuck will continue to live in our South Africa exhibit, and you can visit him by taking the Africa Tram Safari or a Caravan Safari.

Here’s my final thought about my friend Nola. I believe God wants us to do what’s right for all species, not just the northern white rhinoceros. Thank you for being part of the team that knows the right thing to do. And thank YOU, world, for caring. What we do does make a difference.

 

Jane Kennedy is lead keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, What’s It Like to Work With the Rarest Rhino in the World?

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SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL RECEIVES AN OUTPOURING OF SYMPATHY OVER DEATH OF ENDANGERED NORTHERN WHITE RHINOCEROS AT SAN DIEGO ZOO SAFARI PARK

Since the news of the death of Nola, a critically endangered 41-year-old northern white rhino who died yesterday at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park was announced, San Diego Zoo Global has received an overwhelming outpouring of sympathy from around the globe.

“There are no words to adequately express the depth of the loss of Nola”, stated Randy Rieches, curator of mammals at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “All of us at San Diego Zoo Global are grateful for the outpouring of condolences we have been receiving. Nola was truly an amazing animal and her story resonated with people not only in San Diego, but globally. It is a very difficult time for our staff right now as they have worked with and cared for Nola for 26 years. Our hearts are broken over the loss of Nola and knowing her subspecies is now three individuals from extinction makes it even more difficult for of all of us who work with and love rhinos. But, we are not willing to give up.”

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Nola was an iconic animal, not only at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, but worldwide. She was one of only four northern white rhinoceros on the planet. For those wanting to honor Nola’s memory, please share condolences, favorite photos or thoughts on Facebook using #Nola4Ever. Monetary donations also can be made to the San Diego Zoo Global Rhino Rescue Center at sandiegozoo.org/rhinos to help fund rhino conservation.

Her death moves her subspecies one step closer to extinction with three northern white rhinos remaining: a 43-year-old male, Sudan, and two females, 26-year-old Najin and 15-year-old Fatu, living under human care at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. These rhinos all have reproductive issues.

Keepers had been watching Nola around-the-clock since Nov. 17 when they noticed she began showing signs of a reduced appetite and activity level. Her condition worsened significantly in the early hours of Sunday, Nov. 22, and the Safari Park’s animal care team made the difficult decision to euthanize her.

Nola arrived at the Safari Park in 1989 on a breeding loan from the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. Northern white rhinos were at critically low numbers at the time and San Diego Zoo Global, known for its unprecedented rhino breeding successes, was chosen to try and breed this subspecies. Nola was paired with a northern white rhino male, Angalifu. While the pair bred, Nola never became pregnant. The pair lived in their spacious field habitat at the Safari Park until Angalifu died at the age of 42 in December 2014.

Northern white rhinos have been brought to the brink of extinction due to poaching in Africa. Rhinos are poached for their horn, which is made of keratin—the same material that forms human fingernails. Rhino horn has been erroneously thought to have medicinal value and is used in traditional remedies in some Asian cultures. In addition, objects made of rhino horn have more recently become a “status symbol,” purchased to display someone’s success and wealth, because the rhino is now so rare and endangered.

While the future is bleak for the existing three northern white rhinos, conservationists at San Diego Zoo Global, Dvur Kralove Zoo, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and collaborators around the world are holding out hope that they can find a way to save the subspecies. Genetic and reproductive materials from 12 northern white rhinos have been stored in the Frozen Zoo at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, with the hope that new reproductive technologies will someday allow northern white rhinos to be reproduced by having southern white rhinos serve as surrogates. These reproductive technologies may also be applied to other rhino species including the critically endangered Javan rhinos and Sumatran rhinos.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

 

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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CRITICALLY ENDANGERED NORTHERN WHITE RHINOCEROS, NOLA, DIES AT SAN DIEGO ZOO SAFARI PARK

It is with great sadness, San Diego Zoo Global announces Nola, a critically endangered 41-year-old northern white rhino died today at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Nola, who has resided at the Safari Park since 1989, had been under veterinary care for a bacterial infection, as well as age-related health issues. The source of Nola’s infection was recently identified as a large abscess deep in her pelvic region. On Nov. 13, veterinarians performed a minor surgical procedure on Nola to drain the abscess. The procedure was successful in removing ninety percent of the infected material.

Keepers had been watching Nola around-the-clock since earlier this week when they noticed she began showing signs of a reduced appetite and activity level.  In the last 24 hours Nola’s condition worsened significantly and the animal care team at the Safari Park were maintaining her on intensified treatment efforts.  Early this morning, the team made the difficult decision to euthanize her.

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Nola was an iconic animal, not only at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, but worldwide. She was one of only four northern white rhinoceros on the planet. Through the years, millions of people learned about Nola and the plight of rhinos in the wild through visits to the Safari Park, numerous media stories and social media posts. Nola leaves a legacy that her keepers and animal care staff hope will continue to help rhino conservation for years to come.

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Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents.  The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide.  The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

This is a devastating loss. Please share your condolences in the comments below, and please join us in the fight against extinction.

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Northern White Rhino at San Diego Zoo Safari Park Undergoes Procedure for Chronic Infection

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Nola’s procedure went well and she is eating and walking normally.

Nola, a critically endangered 41-year-old northern white rhinoceros who has been under medical care since early September, underwent a surgical procedure earlier today at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Veterinarians caring for the elderly Nola had performed multiple procedures and diagnostic tests over the past few months to pinpoint the source of a chronic draining tract near her right hip. A perirectal abscess—a large accumulation of infectious material in the tissues around the rectum—was identified deep to the animal’s pelvis using ultrasound, and was surgically drained earlier this morning.

“Using local anesthesia and a mild sedative, we were able to access the area of infection and establish drainage,” said Nadine Lamberski, associate director of veterinary services, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “We hope this procedure will resolve the infection Nola has had for many months now, and she certainly should feel better in the days to come.”

To perform the procedure, Nola was walked into a protective chute inside a boma (corral) in her African Plains habitat. The protective chute allowed the veterinary team to perform the surgical procedure without having any unprotected contact with the gentle, but powerful 4,500-pound rhino, were she to move suddenly or try to walk away during the procedure. She was given mild sedation, allowing her to remain awake and standing for the procedure. Her primary keepers stayed with Nola the entire time, keeping her calm by rubbing her back, head and ears.

Immediately after the procedure, Nola was able to walk out of the chute into the boma, where she will remain for the next few weeks. Keepers will monitor her closely and attempt to keep the incision site clean. Nola appears to be feeling well, and she is eating and walking normally.

Nola is one of just four northern white rhinos remaining in the world. Three other northern white rhinos are under human care in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Northern white rhinos are at the brink of extinction due to poaching for their horn. San Diego Zoo Global is working to save the genome of this rhino subspecies through the collection of genetic material preserved in the Frozen Zoo® at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, where researchers also are working to develop and implement assisted reproductive technologies to save the northern white rhino.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

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Big Arrivals at San Diego Zoo Safari Park: Six Southern White Rhinos Arrive from South Africa as Part of Rhino Conservation Initiative

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Six female rhinos that arrived in San Diego will live at the Safari Park’s Rhino Rescue Center.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park welcomed some big arrivals Thursday evening (Nov. 5): Six southern white rhinos arrived via a chartered MD-11 flight from South Africa. The female rhinos, between four and seven years of age, were relocated to the Safari Park from private reserves in South Africa as part of a collaborative conservation effort to save the critically endangered northern white rhino—and all rhino species—from extinction.

A member of the Safari Park animal care staff flew to South Africa earlier this week to accompany the rhinos, along with a veterinarian from South Africa, on the 22-hour flight from Johannesburg to San Diego. The rhinos were transported in individual crates specially designed for the transport. Upon arrival in San Diego, the crates were loaded onto two flatbed trucks and driven to the Safari Park’s new Rhino Rescue Center, built specifically for the new arrivals. Once at the Park, a team of veterinarians and keepers unloaded the animals into fenced yards, where they will remain under a mandatory quarantine for at least 30 days.

“We are beyond thrilled to welcome these southern white rhinos to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and our new Rhino Rescue Center,” said Steve Metzler, interim associate curator of mammals, who accompanied the animals from South Africa to San Diego. “The animals did extremely well during the flight, eating normally and sleeping a good portion of the long trip. Our priority now is to ensure the rhinos are comfortable and acclimating to their new surroundings.”
San Diego Zoo Global has been working for decades, along with other accredited zoos, to keep a sustainable population of rhinos safe under human care while working to protect them in sanctuaries in the wild. To further this commitment, the Rhino Rescue Center was recently built to house the new southern white rhinos, establishing the Safari Park as a sanctuary to protect these rhinos—at a time when an average of three rhinos are killed each day in the wild by poachers.

Poaching of all rhino species has reached critically high numbers in recent years. A rhino is poached every eight hours in South Africa. Rhinos are poached for their horns, which are made of keratin, the same material as human fingernails. At the current rate of poaching, rhinos could become extinct in 15 years.

The northern white rhino is the most critically endangered rhino, with only four individuals remaining in the world. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is home to Nola, a 41-year-old female northern white rhino. Three other northern white rhinos (one male and two females) are in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

The six female southern white rhinos will be a part of San Diego Zoo Global’s science-based rhino conservation efforts to save the northern white rhino. Researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, along with collaborators, are developing reproductive techniques to develop northern white rhino embryos (from cells stored in the institute’s Frozen Zoo®) to be implanted in the southern white rhinos, which will serve as surrogate mothers. There are many challenges ahead, but researchers are optimistic a northern white rhino calf could be born from these processes within 10 to 15 years. These technologies may also be applied to other rhino species, including the critically endangered Sumatran and Javan rhinos.

San Diego Zoo Global has one of the most successful rhino breeding programs in the world. To date, a total of 94 southern white rhinos, 68 greater one-horned rhinos and 14 black rhinos have been born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

For more information on San Diego Zoo Global’s rhino conservation efforts, visit sandiegozoo.org/rhinos.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Photo taken on November 5, 2015 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Global

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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San Diego Zoo Safari Park Rhino Expert Visits Three of Earth’s Four Remaining Northern White Rhinos in Kenya

SafariParkBlogA team from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park visited three northern white rhinos living in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya last month. These three rhinos, a male and two females, along with a single elderly female living at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, are the last remaining northern white rhinos on the planet.

Although two of the rhinos at Ol Pejeta Conservancy are elderly, they appear to be in good condition. The encounter with the critically endangered rhinos was bittersweet for Randy Rieches, curator of mammals for the Safari Park and a board member of the International Rhino Foundation, who last saw these rhinos in the Czech Republic when a population of the species still existed in the wild.

“I was at the Dvur Kralove Zoo a week after the youngest, Fatu, was born,” said Rieches. “At the time, the population of northern white rhinos in the wild had stabilized, and Fatu’s birth seemed to be a hopeful sign.”

Northern white rhinos became extinct in the wild in 2008, due to intensified poaching. The team from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park visited the Kenya rhinos as part of an effort to begin collaborative efforts with the Ol Pejeta Conservancy to recover the species. Rieches spent time with each of the rhinos and their caretakers before meeting with the Conservancy’s chief executive officer, Richard Vigne, to discuss the possibility of future collaborations.

“Whilst the predicament of northern white rhinos is calamitous, we are excited to forge close ties with San Diego to try and save the species. San Diego (Zoo Global) has a rich and successful history in endangered species management and, between us and other collaborators, we hope that we can deploy cutting-edge science that will benefit not only the northern whites, but other species in the future,” said Richard Vigne.

Of the four northern white rhinos left in the world, one, Nola, lives at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Unfortunately, three of the remaining four rhinos are at an advanced age and no longer reproductive. However, genetic material from 12 northern white rhinos has been preserved in the Frozen Zoo® at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, for future reproductive opportunities.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy occupies approximately 139 square miles (360 square kilometers) of African savannah within the Laikipia District of Kenya and incorporates the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Laikipia carries large and growing wildlife populations and is home to almost 50 percent of Kenya’s black rhino population. Ol Pejeta Conservancy works to conserve wildlife, provide a sanctuary for great apes and generate income through wildlife tourism and complementary enterprise for reinvestment in conservation and community development.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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Cute and Curious: Three-Day-Old Southern White Rhino Explores Habitat at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

A three-day-old female southern white rhino calf bravely went horn-to-nub with her “auntie,” an adult female rhino named Utamu (pronounced O-ta-moo), earlier today at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

A three-day-old female southern white rhino calf bravely went horn-to-nub with her “auntie,” an adult female rhino named Utamu (pronounced O-ta-moo), earlier today at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

A female southern white rhino calf, born three days ago at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, bravely went nose-to-nose with an adult female rhino, scared off a curious Nile lechwe and explored her 60-acre East Africa habitat earlier today—all under the watchful eye of her protective mother.

The calf, named Kianga (pronounced Key-AN-ga), which means sunshine in Swahili, was born Oct. 13 to mom, Kacy, and father, Maoto (pronounced May-O-toe). This is the pair’s second calf. The first, a two-and-a-half year-old male named Kayode (pronounced Kay-O-dee), shares the habitat with his parents and baby sister—but mom isn’t letting brother, father, or any of the other rhinos in the crash too near her new offspring.

“Kacy is a very attentive and protective mother,” stated Tina Hunter, senior keeper, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “She is fairly tolerant of the other rhinos being curious about the baby, but she is definitely keeping them at a distance. She is going to have her work cut out for her, as Kianga is rambunctious, has lots of energy and is a very curious little calf.”

Estimated to weigh around 120 pounds, the little ungulate with big feet will nurse from her mother for up to 12 months; she is expected to gain about 100 pounds a month for the first year. When full grown, at around three years of age, she could weigh between 4,000 to 5,000 pounds.

There are an estimated 18,000 southern white rhinos remaining in the wild. The southern white rhino is classified as “near threatened,” due to poaching threats and illegal use of rhino horn. Currently, a rhino dies every eight hours in South Africa due to poaching. Rhinos are poached for their horn, which is made of keratin—the same material that forms human fingernails. Rhino horn has been erroneously thought to have medicinal value and is used in traditional remedies in some Asian cultures. In addition, objects made of rhino horn have more recently become a “status symbol,” purchased to display someone’s success and wealth, because the rhino is now so rare.

Kianga is the 94th southern white rhino calf born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

The rhino calf and mom can best be seen roaming their habitat from the Park’s Africa Tram Safari or a Caravan Safari.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Photo taken on Oct. 16 , 2016, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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San Diego Zoo Global Researchers Tackle Reproductive Challenges in Southern White Rhinos

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Two  female southern white rhinos enjoy a new grass-based pellet as part of their morning meal at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

The reproductive physiology team at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has been working for seven years to determine why southern white rhino females born in zoos tend not to bear offspring as often as their wild relatives. It was recently discovered that the animals may be sensitive to compounds called phytoestrogens found in soy and alfalfa, which are a component of the animals’ diets in zoos.

“During their 16-month gestation, female calves could be exposed to the compounds through their mother’s diet, resulting in permanent infertility issues later in their life,” explained Christopher Tubbs, Ph.D., a scientist in the Reproductive Physiology Division of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. “Through our studies, we have found these plant-based phytoestrogens activate receptors that regulate estrogen function.”

Only about one-third of southern white rhinos in zoos successfully reproduce in their lifetime, making a sustainable population a challenge. This problem is not found in other species of rhinos living in zoos. To find a solution to this complex reproductive problem, Tubbs and his colleagues have spent extensive time in the lab, testing the diets of southern white rhino females at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, as well as those of female southern white rhinos from eight other zoological facilities in the U.S. Many of these diets were found to be high in phytoestrogens.

On the basis of Tubbs’ findings, Michael Schlegel, Ph.D., director of Nutritional Services at San Diego Zoo Global, recently developed a grass-based pellet for rhinos that is low in phytoestrogens. “Besides formulating the pellets that are low in phytoestrogens, we also are ensuring the pellets are supplying concentrations of nutrients that will support reproduction,” stated Schlegel. The pellets are currently being fed to the southern white rhinos at the Safari Park, with the hope that the lower phytoestrogen content will help solve this reproductive issue. Further diet studies will continue, including research on how phytoestrogens are metabolized in the rhino gut. While the reproduction of white rhinos in zoos is still uncertain, the development and implementation of new science-based efforts could be beneficial to the conservation of white rhinos in the future.

The project has reached a real point of urgency, due to the increase in poaching in recent years that has dramatically affected rhino populations in the wild. “When I started this project in 2007, 13 rhinos were poached (that year),” stated Tubbs. “Last year, more than 1,200 southern white rhinos were poached in South Africa—one every eight hours. More than ever, we need a self-sustaining population of white rhinos established outside of Africa.”

Rhinos are poached for their horn, which is made of keratin—the same material that forms human fingernails. Rhino horn has been erroneously thought to have medicinal value and is used in traditional remedies in some Asian cultures. In addition, objects made of rhino horn have more recently become a “status symbol,” purchased to display someone’s success and wealth, because the rhino is now so rare and endangered.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Photo taken on Sept. 29, 2015 by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291