World Rhino Day takes place on September 22! It’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the eastern black rhinos here at Lincoln Park Zoo, Kapuki and her son Romeo, while recognizing that there’s still a lot of work to do when it comes to saving this critically endangered species.
Here at Lincoln Park Zoo, we’ve been at the forefront of conservation efforts for eastern black rhinos. We’re part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan® program for the species, which is designed to safeguard the population with responsible breeding recommendations based on data and individual considerations for the rhinos involved. Rhinos have notoriously complex breeding introductions and long gestations, but scientists here developed a hormone-monitoring technique that led to the birth of two calves since 2013 that will contribute to the genetic diversity of the species in AZA member institutions.
Our scientists have also assisted in the recovery of this species through non-invasive field techniques that monitor the animals’ health, which have been used in South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park. Eastern black rhinos were nearly driven to extinction in the 1990s, when their population dropped to 2,000 individuals as a result of habitat destruction and poaching. Today, rhinos number more than 5,000 in their historical range as a result of conservation efforts, but they are slow breeders so recovery takes time.
If you’re looking to help rhinos at Lincoln Park Zoo and in the wild, here are five things you can do:
1. Get Informed
Take some time to learn about rhinos and the issues surrounding conservation of these animals in their native range. Eastern black rhinos suffer from habitat destruction, but are also victims of poaching. Their horns are used in traditional medicine because they are believed to have healing properties. In reality, though, those horns are formed of keratin—the same material that makes up human hair and nails. These animals have a long way to go when it comes to replenishing their numbers, so support for rhino conservation initiatives is important.
2. ADOPT An Eastern Black Rhinoceros
You can support Romeo and Kapuki—along with all the work that Lincoln Park Zoo does to further conservation of rhinos—by purchasing an ADOPT package. ADOPT stands for Animals Depend on People Too, because it’s true. ADOPTing an animal directly supports the individuals that live at Lincoln Park Zoo by funding their veterinary care, specialized diets, daily enrichment, and other important methods of care. The plush ADOPT, which includes a plush version of your adopted animal, makes a great gift for someone who cares about this charismatic species.
3. Get the Rhinos Something Off the Wish List
The zoo’s Wish List allows friends of the zoo to provide the animals with specific items that they need each month. You’ll buy a share of food, a bit of enrichment, or part of a toy that will help Animal Care staff continue their excellent care of each individual animal. This month, we’re requesting shares of a supply of fresh, leafy plants that are part of the rhino’s customized nutrition plan. Not only do these twigs and greens help provide sustenance the rhinos need, they encourage natural foraging behaviors.
4. Be Aware of Wildlife Trafficking Issues
Wildlife trafficking remains a huge problem and a driver of extinction for many species around the world. Between 2009-2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recorded 19,301 illegal wildlife seizures from 186 countries. The United States, sadly, remains one of the largest consumers of illegal wildlife and wildlife products in the world.
As eastern black rhinos and other rhinoceros species are hunted for their horns, they’re not immune to this type of international crime. And Lincoln Park Zoo is proud of its role in helping stem the tide of illegal animal products entering the country. Through a collaboration between the zoo and the USFWS, Maku the rhino (who died in 2020) was able to help federal officials in their fight. As Maku participated in his own health care, he’d have his horn and hooves trimmed. Those pieces were sent to the USFWS to assist in training and education.
To find out how you can help, Take Action With Us.
5. Visit the Zoo on World Rhino Day!
Of course, any day is a good day to come see the eastern black rhinos—and so many other animals—at Lincoln Park Zoo. But on Awareness Days, you’ll get a little extra: chats, enrichment, and special activities throughout zoo open hours. So, if you’re available on Thursday, September 22, it’s a great time to bring the family to connect with these big pachyderms on zoo grounds. There’s nothing like seeing them in person, after all, and you’ll hopefully have fun, too, as you learn about animals, enjoy the day, and support rhino conservation on the first day of fall at Lincoln Park Zoo.