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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : August 2000 : KC rhino gives birth to a 65-pound baby; Both seem healthy, say officials at zoo

KC rhino gives birth to a 65-pound baby; Both seem healthy, say officials at zoo

August 27, 2000

- A 65-pound bundle of baby rhinoceros arrived early Saturday at the Kansas City Zoo.

The female calf was born at 4:40 a.m., and within 50 minutes she was nursing and making high-pitched yeeps. Both baby and mother appeared healthy, zoo officials said.

"She follows mom around, and mom adjusts her height to allow the baby to nurse," said Conrad Schmitt, zoo curator. "She's doing exactly what we would want her to do."

The birth is of international significance because this subspecies, called the eastern black rhinoceros, is critically endangered. The main threats are poaching and loss of habitat. The International Rhino Foundation estimates there are just 660 eastern black rhinos left on the planet.

Now there are 661.

"These are the things that zoos need to be doing," Schmitt said.

Conservation officials are especially pleased that this baby is female. In recent years, births among captive eastern black rhinos have been disproportionately male.

The captive population needed new blood to enlarge the gene pool, so the Kansas City Zoo forged a relationship with the South African National Parks Board to collect animals from the wild.

The rhino mother, named Luyisa, was brought here from Addo Elephant National Park in 1997. The Kansas City Star went along to document the collection.

The sire, named Rudy, was born in captivity.

Zookeepers had developed a trusting relationship with Luyisa, who allowed veterinarian Kirk Suedmeyer to take regular ultrasound readings of the fetus.

Zookeeper Wendy Shaffstall had been on a 24-hour watch with the rhino when the baby came. She immediately called Suedmeyer and Schmitt. Mark Wourms, zoo director, left early Saturday for Africa and was unaware of the birth.

Luyisa was the second female imported from the wild by Kansas City. The first one died last year of a blood ailment. She also had been pregnant.

At the same time Luyisa was brought here, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo also imported a female rhino.

That animal is pregnant and due to give birth this fall, said Denise Rendina, Kansas City Zoo spokeswoman.

At the time they were in Africa, Schmitt and Cleveland mammal curator Alan Sironen made a bet over who would produce a baby rhino first. Schmitt won.

Kansas City's baby is scheduled eventually to be transferred to the Cincinnati zoo, which is developing a rhino program. The move will not be made for a few years, however, because young rhinos have a long nurturing period with their mothers.

The gestation of this baby rhino, which is as yet unnamed, was about 16 months.

Seeing the newborn

It was unclear when the baby rhino would be on public display, but KMBC-TV, Channel 9, has two cameras installed in the rhino barn. Visitors can view still photos, which are refreshed every five minutes, by logging on to

- To reach Matt Campbell call (816) 234-4905 or e-mail to

@ART CAPTION:Luyisa, an eastern black rhinoceros, watched over her newborn calf Saturday at the Kansas City Zoo. The calf weighed 65 pounds at birth. @ART:Photo (color)



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