The Lowry Park Zoo has a new baby rhino to squeal about.
One day before her own birthday, and three days before Mother's Day, an endangered Indian rhinoceros (also known as a greater one-horned rhinoceros) named Jamie gave birth to a male calf on May 9. The birth is the third for the zoo in five years, and a significant conservation milestone for the species with fewer than 60 animals in the managed population.
The new addition has been given the Indian name Jiyu, meaning compassionate friend, by the zoo's Asian animal care team. Though he has not yet been weighed, calves normally weigh in the range of 75 to 100 pounds at birth. Mother and calf will spend time together off exhibit for the newborn's safety and privacy in bonding.
The zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Indian Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan, designed to support the conservation of select wildlife species at risk of extinction. Counting the new male calf, there are just 54 Indian rhinos in AZA-accredited institutions, with an estimated wild population of no more than 2,850.
Jamie's first offspring, a female named Jaya born in 2009, now resides at Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Wichita, Kan., and the second offspring, a male named Jahi born in 2011, is at Central Florida Zoo in Sanford. A male rhino named Arjun sired all three calves.
The greater one-horned rhinoceros is one of five species of rhinos worldwide and one of three species found in Asia. It is native to the remote, swampy grasslands of India, Assam and Nepal. Weighing several thousand pounds on average, the rhino's most distinct feature is a single horn on the end of its muzzle (three species have two horns), which is composed of keratin — the same protein that forms human fingernails and hair. The species has a unique upper lip, known as a prehensile lip, which acts as a hook to grasp onto plants and food in its herbivore diet (grass, twigs, bamboo shoots, water hyacinths and various produce). Indian rhinos have been described with "armor-like skin" due to the presence of skin folds, however the skin is actually supple due to frequent wallowing in water and mud.
According to Save the Rhino International, an organization that works to conserve viable populations of critically endangered rhinos in Africa and Asia, drastic declines in population numbers have been fueled by the illegal rhino horn trade, habitat loss and political conflict over the past few decades. Poaching of rhino horns for the production of traditional Chinese medicine is the greatest threat facing the rhino today.