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SOS Rhino : In the News : Baby rhino adds to zoo rush

Baby rhino adds to zoo rush

  Daily Record

Zoo officials say this monthÆold calf will gain five pounds every day.

by Tammy Taylor
Staff Writer

The Jacksonville Zoo is adding today a 156Æpound endangered white rhino to the Plains of East Africa exhibit.

The unnamed male calf, born February 5 at the zoo, is one of six white rhinos on exhibit. This is the third calf born to the 10-year-old Gabrielle, a permanent resident of the zoo.

"This little guy had a rocky start," said Dennis Pate, the zooÍs executive director. "Since his birth, the veterinary staff has been monitoring him closely. HeÍs responded well, and he appears ready to be introduced to the herd. WeÍll continue to observe him closely as he goes on exhibit, as we do with any youngster."

The rhino is the latest addition to a growing collection of rare animals. Earlier this month, the zoo opened its $15 million Range of the Jaguar exhibit, featuring about 90 species of mammal, reptile, fish and bird. The new exhibits are the centerpiece of the zooÍs strategy to increase attendance. So far it appears to be paying off.

The addition of the newborn rhino comes in the midst of the highest volume weekends the zoo has experienced since its 1914 opening.

The March 5 opening of the Range of the Jaguar exhibit brought 16,773 though the gates only to be exceeded by an attendance of 19,583 people the next weekend. The zoo is projecting about 10 percent more people - nearly 60,000 - to walk through its turnstiles this year.

Teresa Eichner, the Jacksonville Zoo media relations coordinator, said the draw of the new exhibit and Duval County public schools spring break are to thank for the increased attendance numbers.

"The past two weekends have been the top producers," said Eichner. "But this weekend may beat that because of spring break this week, then Clay County spring break the next. And we do draw crowds from five counties."

Currently a small, "spunky" thing compared his parents, the calf will weigh up to 5,000 pounds once fully grown. He is currently 300 pounds and gains an average of five pounds a day.

Rhino calves generally nurse for up to two years. Craig Miller, Curator of Mammals for the Jacksonville Zoo, said the baby will be completely dependent on his mother until he starts eating a small amount of solid food, which will likely occur in five to six months.

The next exhibit planned for the Jacksonville Zoo is KidÍs Zone. It will feature animal encounters for patrons and most likely a petting zoo.