Lincoln Park Zoo’s newborn Eastern black rhinoceros calf thrilled zoo guests as he took his first steps outside at the Harris Family Foundation Black Rhinoceros Exhibit.
A little timid at first, the calf quickly followed his mom’s lead and trotted around the yard, occasionally stopping to explore the new sights and scents. Since his birth on August 26, the 200-pound calf and new mom Kapuki (8) have been bonding behind the scenes at Regenstein African Journey.
It was a big day all around for the little calf, as the public also learned his name for the first time – King.
“King the calf is named for King Harris, a long-standing and generous supporter of Lincoln Park Zoo with his wife, Caryn, who sits on our Board of Trustees,” said Lincoln Park Zoo President and CEO Kevin Bell. “The Harris family’s support of the 2008 renovation and expansion of our rhino habitat made it possible for us to bring in an additional rhino and breed the species.”
Young King is certainly animal royalty. Eastern black rhinos are critically endangered in their native Africa due largely to poaching. The latest estimates place the number of wild rhinos at only around 5,000.
“Breeding programs at zoos are of crucial importance to the survival of these remarkable animals, particularly as the numbers in the wild continue to dwindle,” said Lincoln Park Zoo Curator of Mammals Mark Kamhout. “King will serve as an excellent ambassador for his species.”
Lincoln Park Zoo is dedicated to rhino conservation and has been housing critically endangered black rhinos since 1982. It is currently home to three adult rhinos, including King’s dad, 27-year-old Maku. In addition to working closely with the Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding and management strategy overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Lincoln Park Zoo supports rhinos through field work in their native South Africa. The information zoo scientists gather on rhino hormone levels, parasites, and sleep patterns increases global understanding of how to manage and conserve the species.