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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : January 2001 : Rare rhino with mysterious disease euthanized at zoo

Rare rhino with mysterious disease euthanized at zoo

By Sarah Hale
Los Angeles Times

Sweet Pea, a rare black rhinoceros known to Los Angeles zookeepers for her penchant for apples and her sweet demeanor, was euthanized Friday after several months of battling an unknown disease, zoo officials said.

The 24-year-old rhino, which weighed more than a ton, began experiencing health problems last summer, including a loss in weight and appetite coupled with anemia and chronic iron overload. Zoo veterinarians performed dozens of tests with no explanation of the cause of Sweet Pea's illness.

Cynthia Stringfield, the zoo's chief veterinarian, said Sweet Pea couldn't stand up when she awoke Friday.

"She was a very people-oriented rhino up until the very end," Stringfield said.

Stringfield said that Sweet Pea may have had cancer or a fungal infection. A gross necropsy will be performed to determine the cause of the illness.

Sweet Pea, who was given the name because of her pleasing personality, was born in 1976 in Cincinnati and came to the Los Angeles Zoo in 1979.

The Los Angeles Zoo has two remaining black rhinos, Buster and Shebani, in its collection. The zoo also has three on loan to other zoos.

The species is considered highly endangered, with only about 2,500 remaining in the wild in Africa and about 150 in zoos.



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