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SOS Rhino : In the News : A blessed rhino event

A blessed rhino event

  Web Posted: 08/21/2004 09:48 AM CDT

Scott Huddleston
Express-News Staff Writer

Herbie and Sababu have been hard at work - she might call it labor - to preserve their species, which is endangered, due to rampant poaching in Africa.

Sababu gave birth Sunday to her and Herbie's third black rhinoceros calf, Utenzi, who made his media debut Friday. The birth was a "remarkable accomplishment given the lengthy gestation period and difficulty breeding this endangered species," said Steve McCusker, the San Antonio Zoo's executive director.

The calf, which weighed about 100 pounds at birth and is growing quickly. He could grow to 3,500 pounds.

Utenzi, who has a shiny spot on his snout where his two-pronged horn will grow, clings to his mother, McCusker said.

He's one of only a few black rhinos born at U.S. zoos in the past year, McCusker said.

His name is Swahili for "energetic."

"He's really active, and he's all over the place," McCusker said. "And then he'll nurse with his mother and take a nap. There's a 'cute' value, which is not a word I use very often, especially for rhinos."

In the 1970s, about 65,000 black rhinos roamed Africa. They declined to 2,500 by the 1990s, as many were hunted for their horns, which were used as ornaments and thought to be valuable as medicines or aphrodisiacs.

Their numbers have increased to 3,600, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature and the African Rhino Specialist Group. Africa's white rhino, meanwhile, has thrived, from just 50 rhinos in the early 1900s to about 11,000.

Black rhinos are more solitary and more at risk of extinction than the larger white rhinos. Both species look gray, but have distinguishing features.

Herbie has been on loan for five years from Sedgewick County Zoo in Wichita, Kan. Sababu came to San Antonio from the Cincinnati Zoo in 1987.

The zoo will await direction from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, which keeps a database on breeding of endangered species, before mating Herbie and Sababu again.

"It might be that we'll have to move (Herbie) to breed with another cow, since we already have three (offspring) on the ground from those two," McCusker said.

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