This past fall was an exciting time at Regenstein African Journey as we welcomed our first black rhino calf in 25 years. It’s hard to believe it’s already been six months since King was born last August 26. During that time we’ve seen him grow physically from 60 pounds to close to 600 pounds!
Baby rhino King and mom Kapuki duck their heads into a makeshift “mud wallow” behind the scenes at Regenstein African Journey.
Obviously he’s been eating quite well, and his mother, Kapuki, has done an amazing job taking care of him. For the first several months King’s diet consisted of milk from nursing. Over the last couple months King has started to consume hay and grain as well as produce. He’s still nursing several times a day but is starting to eat solid foods on a more consistent basis.
As you’ll see in the video below, the keepers have been giving King lots of enrichment items, including boomer balls, mud wallows and branches. King’s confidence has also grown over the last several months, and he really likes to stretch his legs, so we’ve been giving him more and more access to the larger dayroom habitat where he can run around and play with his enrichment. He’s even been given a snowman, which he and his mom enjoyed pushing over and licking up!
In this special video, we check in on how baby rhino King is growing at the Harris Family Foundation Black Rhinoceros Exhibit.
From time to time King and Kapuki have gotten access to their yard this winter. King seems to like running about the snow for brief moments but will quickly run back inside to his mom.
Baby rhino King and mom Kapuki explore the snow in their outdoor yard at the Harris Family Foundation Black Rhinoceros Exhibit. Photo by Marisa Elizalde.
King does bring to mind the challenges black rhinos face in the wild due to poaching. Black rhinos were nearly driven extinct during the 1990s by habitat destruction and poaching, their population dropping from 65,000 to 2,000 animals. Although there are currently about 5,000 of these amazing animals left in parts of Africa, they are still under the constant threat of poaching, which has increased in frequency in recent years.
Zoo scientists are assisting the recovery of endangered black rhinos in South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park. Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., director of the zoo’s Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, monitors the status of wild populations of black rhinos using non-invasive field techniques—the collection of fecal samples—to monitor hormone concentrations and the presence of parasites. This information will help scientists better manage and conserve this amazing endangered species.
The challenges facing black rhinos in the wild demonstrate the importance of King being an ambassador for his species here in Chicago. As the weather slowly warms over the next several months we anticipate King getting access to the yard on a more frequent basis and being a great ambassador for his species to the millions of guests that come to Lincoln Park Zoo every year.
Curator of Mammals
King Grows Up
Follow the growth of the zoo's baby rhino, King, in this special slideshow, which tracks his development from birth to today!