PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — There is exciting news at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium as they are preparing to welcome another new baby.
You can’t tell by just looking at her, but Azizi, the zoo’s 11-year-old black rhino, is about to be a first-time mom.
“We have not had a rhino pregnancy at our zoo in 47 years, and so we are extremely excited about this particular birth,” said Dr. Barbara Baker, the president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo.
Another reason to be excited about the calf, black rhinos are critically endangered. There are only about 4,800 left in the wild.
“The decline there is due to poaching; sadly, for the rhino horn,” said Dr. Baker. “So, it’s very important that zoos continue to serve as a reservoir and try to breed these very endangered species.”
Because rhino breeding is a very carefully done procedure, took nearly two years for Azizi and Jomo, the baby’s father, to mate. It was anything but love at first sight.
“It’s a lot of chuffing, huffing and running around; and well, they take it from there,” Dr. Ginger Takle, of the Pittsburgh Zoo, said.
Now, vets are keeping a close eye on Azizi, taking her blood at least once a week to check hormone levels.
There’s a lot of work that has to happen at the zoo before the calf arrives in the fall.
Zoo keepers are actually going to be baby-proofing the entire yard, putting up barriers like logs and straw to help prevent the baby from falling or even sliding through a fence.
“The kids are really cute when they come out; they don’t have the horns yet so it’s just this big flat face,” said Dr. Takle, “and they just come out ready to go, ready to rubble and tumble and full or personality from day one. I’m pretty excited to be able to experience that myself.”