Endangered male black rhino coming to Potter Park Zoo

Potter Park Zoo will soon be home to 9-year-old Phineus, a male eastern black rhino, and the zoo team is honored to have him. 

“It is a privilege to house black rhinos at Potter Park Zoo,” said Zoo Director Cynthia Wagner. “There are only 57 eastern black rhinos in North American Zoos and around 5,000 black rhinos in the wild. The addition of Phineas will help us continue our efforts to preserve this incredible species.”

Potter Park Zoo’s mission is to “Inspire people to conserve animals in the natural world.” As part of this commitment zoo staff participates in fund raising efforts and research projects that benefit the five remaining species of rhino. Potter Park Zoo’s American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) chapter has an annual Bowling for Rhinos event. In the past three years they have sent over $10,000 to benefit wild rhino populations.  

Poaching has had a devastating effect and has directly caused the black rhino to be critically endangered. Black rhino gestation is 15 to 16 months and females typically have one calf every three to four years. At this rate of reproduction the black rhino population cannot keep up with the increasing rate of poaching. Rhinos are poached for their horn because some cultures believe it has medicinal properties. On the black market 1 kg of rhino horn can be sold for more than the price of gold. As long as demand is high, poachers will continue to find ways to decimate rhino populations. Last year 1,175 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone.

Potter Park Zoo team members understand the urgency of this situation and the zoo participates in the Black Rhino Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). This program keeps records of all rhinos in AZA accredited facilities and advises zoos on breeding plans for each species.

Phineus, from the Caldwell Zoo, and Potter Park Zoo’s current black rhino resident, 9-year-old Doppsee, were selected as a potential breeding pair as part of the SSP. Wagner said having a breeding pair of black rhinos is a unique opportunity for Potter Park Zoo and the Lansing community.

“There are currently only 20 black rhino breeding recommendations for all AZA facilities in 2017. We are very fortunate to have this pair at our zoo. It is imperative this species continues to be bred in zoos and maintain as much genetic diversity as possible. This isn’t just about what is happening at Potter Park Zoo, it is about the future of the rhino population as a whole,” she said.

Transport of a black rhino takes a tremendous amount of coordination.  Potter Park Zoo borrowed a rhino crate from Cleveland Metro Park Zoo and had it shipped to the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Texas where 2,700 lb. Phineus is currently housed. He is being trained to voluntarily enter the crate and when the training is completed he will be transported more than 1,000 miles to his new home in Lansing. He will be in an enclosed temperature controlled vehicle for the duration of the drive. The total cost of the transport will be around $10,000.

Those who would like to donate toward the shipping of Phineus and support Potter Park Zoo’s black rhino efforts can visit: http://bit.ly/phineus2017