Zoo's black rhinos expecting an addition

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The relationship, if you can call it that, was stormy and transient, but it had its long-anticipated outcome.

Azizi, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium's 11-year-old black rhinoceros, is pregnant, and the father is 16-year-old Jomo, the zoo's other black rhino. The calf, due sometime around September or October, will be the first black rhino born at the zoo in 47 years.

"It was a long introductory process," said Barbara Baker, zoo president and CEO. "[It] is quite aggressive. Rhinos are solitary animals. They only come together for breeding. There's a lot of posturing, testing the waters with each other. We had to monitor them back in June of last year to make sure they were able to safely breed."

The posturing and testing of waters had been repeated for more than a year before they finally mated.

Azizi and Jomo are separate again now -- "and they like it that way," Ms. Baker said.

At birth, a black rhino weighs 60 to 100 pounds, compared to 4,500 to 5,000 pounds as an adult, she said.

Azizi's yard and rooms where the calf will be born will be baby-proofed early in the fall. The first 30 days after birth are critical to calves, who have a mortality rate of 25 percent in zoos.

"Mom's never had a baby before," Ms. Baker explained of the hazards. "You have to have a successful presentation and delivery of the calf. The calf has to be a healthy, active animal when born. There has to be bonding between mom and baby. Does mom have enough milk to care for the baby?" The mortality rate for baby rhinos is even higher in the wild because of predators.

Video cameras will provide a live feed to zoo visitors of mother and baby, Ms. Baker said, and the calf will be put out in the yard as soon as safely possible.

Eventually, when old enough, the calf probably will be placed in another zoo to start another breeding program since it couldn't be bred to Azizi or Jomo, she said.

on the web

For a related video report on the Pittsburgh Zoo's pregnant rhino, visit post-gazette.com.

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Pohla Smith: psmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1228. First Published April 13, 2012 4:45 AM


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