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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : December 2000 : Clyde, rare black rhinoceros, dies at advanced age of 49

Clyde, rare black rhinoceros, dies at advanced age of 49

By Matthew Marx
The Columbus Dispatch
December 19, 2000

COLUMBUS, OHIO - Clyde, the oldest living rhinoceros on record, died of old age at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium yesterday, a zoo spokeswoman said. He was 49.

Zoo workers found the rare African black rhino in his pen inside the pachyderm building yesterday morning, spokeswoman Patty Peters said.

"It was inevitable at his age. . . . He was unbelievably old.''

The black rhino, an endangered species, has an average lifespan of 25 years in the wild and 35 to 40 years in captivity, say wildlife experts.

"For a black rhino, he was really laid-back,'' Peters said of Clyde. "Even as a youngster, he would open his mouth for monkey biscuits and beg -- as much begging as a rhino could do. He was a nice animal.''

Casual zoo visitors probably didn't realize they had been seeing the same rhino for more than 45 years, but Clyde was well-known to regulars, she said.

Indeed, several visitors at the pachyderm building last night for Wildlights were disappointed to learn of his passing but said they didn't really remember him.

"He's the same age as my husband,'' said Patti Timmel, 43, of Pickerington, who was touring the zoo with her daughter Amanda, 12, and friends. "It's sad when any of these animals go.''

Born in the African wild in 1951, Clyde was captured as a baby and taken to the Basel Zoo in Switzerland. He came to Columbus in 1954.

In recent years, zoo workers took special care of Clyde because of his advanced age, Peters said. They ground and pureed his food to compensate for his worn teeth. They gave him a special mattress and kept him bandaged and medicated because of a pressure sore.

He probably weighed 2,400 pounds, zoo officials estimated.

Clyde was one of 235 captive black rhinos. About 2,700 still live in the wild. Poachers hunt the creatures for their horns, which are used for medicinal or ornamental purposes in Asia and the Middle East.

The Columbus Zoo still has two black rhinos, Kijito, 7, a male, and a 12- year-old female, Kulinda. Neither is related to Clyde, who never reproduced, Peters said.

Breeding black rhinos is tough because they are solitary animals and don't like to be around each other unless they are receptive to procreation, she said.

"Otherwise, they would just fight and annoy each other.''

Semen was collected from Clyde before he died and frozen in anticipation of technological advancements in reproductive medicine for rhinos, Peters said.

Clyde was the third rhino in slightly more than two years to die while in the care of the Columbus Zoo.

In October 1999, a female black rhino died less than one month after she was born at the zoo.

The baby's father, Jioni, died in September 1998 while he was being transported from the Wilds in Muskingum County, about 65 miles east of Columbus, to the zoo.

The Detroit Zoo now lays claim to the oldest living rhino, which is in its mid-40s, Peters said.



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