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Critically endangered black rhino is pregnant at Michigan zoo

A Lansing zoo confirms its critically endangered black rhino is pregnant. Potter Park Zoo officials say it took almost a year to get the female rhino pregnant.

The rhino's name is Doppsee. While it is too early to see a fetus, lab test show she is expecting.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) there are only 5,000 black rhinos remaining in the wild and only about 60 at zoos in the United States.

Sarah Pechtel is the zoo’s General Curator. The zoo is part of the Black Rhino Species Survival Program (SSP), which is focused on maintaining animals in human care. Phineus, the expected calf's father, traveled to Lansing in 2017 from the Caldwell Zoo in Texas. Pechtel says the breeding was recommended by the group, and that’s why Phineus was brought to the zoo.

The zoo tried to have Doppsee mate with another black rhino Jello. However, Pechtel says, like humans rhinos sometimes don't like other animals, and Doppsee did not take to Jello. Sarah says the first time Phineus and Doppsee were together was a little stressful, but with each subsequent introduction they were more comfortable.

Zoo officials say, "With wild rhino populations declining, it is imperative for the zoo populations to be diverse and sustainable. A successful pregnancy would mean the world to Potter Park Zoo, its employees, and all that visit, but it would mean even more to the black rhino population as a whole," Pechtel says.

"I think we would all love to get to the point where we are breeding black rhinos well enough in zoos that can then go back to Africa, to their native home, but with such a small population right now, I am not sure when that will happen." 

The zoo expects the calf will be born around Christmas time. Animal care and veterinary staff will continue to monitor Doppsee throughout her pregnancy. ­­Potter Park Zoo says they will keep everyone updated through regular posts on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blog.

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