Will love bloom for more than two tons of rhino?
Friday, April 6, 2012
Easter holiday weekend begins with a date for Andazi and Utenzi
Eastern black rhinoceroses Andazi (female) and Utenzi (male) will be placed together for their first breeding introduction on Friday, April 6. A successful pairing could result in a calf in 2013.
Eastern black rhinos are solitary in the wild, with males and females coming together only for breeding. In keeping with the animals’ natural behaviors in the wild, Andazi and Utenzi are permitted to share the same space only when the female is cycling. The prelude to breeding is often a dramatic event; aggressive behaviors such as chasing, sparring, bluff charges are normal and expected, with neither animal usually sustaining serious injuries.
Andazi, 5, and Utenzi, 7, have been recommended to breed by the Rhino Species Survival Plan (SSP), which seeks to maintain a self-sustaining, genetically diverse population within North American zoos. Eastern black rhinos are critically endangered, with only around 4,800 believed to remain in the wild. Wild populations have plummeted drastically in recent decades as a result of habitat loss and poaching for black-market rhino products.
Breeding would be a triumph for the species, but a calf would not be expected until summer 2013. Rhino gestation averages 15 to 16 months; calves weigh 55 to 90 pounds at birth and are born without horns.
Perhaps Andazi and Utenzi will be either distracted or inspired by their neighbor, Abu the giraffe, who has repeatedly been seen attempting to breed with the female members of his herd over the past several days. Abu, 6, has sired two previous calves, the results of another of one of the animal kingdom’s longest gestation periods.