Teaming Up to Save Wildlife

Conservation Zoo News

May 12, 2022

A legacy continues…

In 2020, Lincoln Park Zoo said goodbye to 34-year-old eastern black rhinoceros Maku due to age-related health issues. An ambassador for his species, Maku helped sustain the population of critically endangered black rhinos through his six offspring as part of the Eastern Black Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan® (SSP) and was the second-oldest eastern black rhino male across North America.

Lincoln Park Zoo is proud to share that Maku’s legacy lives on through a collaboration between the zoo and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Throughout his life, Maku would routinely have his horn and hooves trimmed, much like filling your fingernails. He would receive his favorite foods from keepers and voluntarily partook in his own care at the zoo. These pieces of Maku’s horn were then sent to USFWS and are being used for educational and training purposes in the fight against wildlife trafficking.

“Maku had such a profound impact on our zoo family, as well as the community as a whole,” said Curator of Mammals Mike Murray. “It’s inspiring to know that, for years to come, Maku will be able to help save his species through this collaboration. He continues to leave quite the legacy.”

Wildlife detection dog units operate in various import cities across the United States, including Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles. The canines are trained to identify animal parts, including from rhinos to elephants.

A surprise to many, rhino horn is made up of keratin—the same protein that forms the basis of human hair and nails. The illegal poaching of rhinos for their horns is the number one reason why this species is endangered. Their horn is used to make daggers and traditional medicine and, in order to protect the species, the trade of their horns is prohibited by international law.

The illegal trafficking of wildlife products is driving the decline of many species, including eastern black rhinos.

Did you know that the United States is one of the largest consumers of illegal wildlife and wildlife products in the world?

“Contrary to popular belief, illegal wildlife trafficking is not just happening across the globe,” said Vice President of Conservation & Science Sunny Nelson. “It’s happening right here in your backyard. Wildlife detection dogs at O’Hare International Airport work diligently to find illegal wildlife and wildlife products. Lincoln Park Zoo is a proud partner in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, as well as works very closely with the AZA CITES sub-committee.”

Many species are heavily trafficked without regard for welfare of the individuals or the impact to their wild populations.

Discover more about the devastating wildlife trafficking industry at lpzoo.org/putting-an-end-to-wildlife-trafficking/, as well as learn more about science-based actions you can take to help save wildlife at lpzoo.org/action.

On your next visit to the zoo, be sure to stop by Regenstein African Journey to catch a glimpse of Maku’s offspring, Romeo. Like his father, Romeo serves as an ambassador for his species—instilling a love for wildlife in guests and a need to protect this magnificent species.

Pictured above is Maku, who was the second-oldest eastern black rhino male across North America.