#RhinoWatch: It’s a…Rhino!

March 20, 2019

Eastern black rhino in exhibit

We have some BIG news to share. Kapuki, the zoo’s 13-year-old female eastern black rhinoceros, is pregnant! The calf is expected to arrive in May at Regenstein African Journey.

“The potential of a successful calf means much more than a cute face at the zoo. A birth represents preservation of a critically endangered species that faces a lot of challenges,” says Curator of Mammals Mike Murray. “We remain cautiously optimistic that Kapuki, as an experienced dam, will know just what to do.”

Maku, a 33-year-old rhino is the sire of the calf. Maku and Kapuki (pictured above) previously produced offspring, King, in 2013.

The pregnancy is a result of a breeding recommendation from the Eastern Black Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan® (SSP) that cooperatively manages the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) population. SSP Breeding and Transfer Plans are informed by genetic analyses conducted by the AZA Population Management Center and its adjunct scientists. Using these data, female rhino, Kapuki, was recommended to breed with 33-year-old male rhino, Maku.

Kapuki’s hormones were measured from fecal samples and analyzed by Davee Center scientists.

Pregnancy was confirmed using fecal samples collected by Animal Care staff and then processed and analyzed by scientists at the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology.

“Measuring hormones from fecal samples we were not only able to confirm pregnancy, but first, were able to understand when Kapuki was ovulating and inform animal care decisions and timelines for introducing Kapuki to the male rhino, Maku,” says Davee Center Director Rachel Santymire, Ph.D.

Kapuki and Maku had previously been successful in producing offspring as with the case of the birth of King in 2013. As part of an SSP recommendation, King was transferred to Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo in November 2016.

King was born in 2013 and transferred to Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo in 2016 as an SSP recommendation.

We will be posting regular updates on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using #RhinoWatch, as well as right here on the blog. Get your news in one place by signing up for our biweekly news digest: ZooMail!

In preparation for this exciting arrival, some of expectant mother Kapuki’s favorite things have been added to the Wish List such as apples and hay as her diet increases throughout pregnancy and nursing. Supporters can assist in purchasing a rhino-sized scale in order to weigh the calf as it grows! Those looking to provide care for Kapuki or the calf year round can also ADOPT a rhino online or at the Member Center at Searle Visitor Center.