Behind the Scenes Of Rhino Romance

He is a handsome guy–15 year old Jomo, an eastern black rhino, member of a critically endangered species, only 4200 in the wilds of eastern and southern Africa, 66 in AZA accredited zoos. Thursday night, members of The Pittsburgh Zoo’s Grow Wild Society had a behind the scenes meeting with Jomo, and his lady love (hopefully),

Azizi.  65,000 strong on the continent of Africa in 1970, the  black rhinos’double horns–desired by poachers– have proved to be their undoing. But aggressive anti-poaching has made inroads. Nevertheless, the message this night to the guests was the need to inject new genes into the captive population, so it is healthier, and so the numbers can be maintained  to teach people why saving the wild population is  essential.

Jomo is still figuring out how to make babies, but there has been progress. During Azizi’s last opportunity, Jomo was doing everything right, but a heavy downpour made it too muddy for good footing. Important when you weigh about a ton.

But this week-end, Zoo staff say this lovely lady I am petting, may be ready again. And if it happens, there could be a baby rhino in 15 and a half months. Everyone was thrilled with the visit–a benefit of the Society. And more exciting news involves the Zoo’s International Conservation Center. In the next several years, it will have a global center for reproducing these magnificent creatures through artificial insemination, infusing the captive population with fresh genes from the wild–without having to bring the wild donors here.  It is a delicate balance. As habitats disappear, the argument is that zoos both teach conservation with their animals, and provide insurance against extinction.  If you touch a rhino, you will understand.


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