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Critically Endangered Rhinoceros Born In Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo

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A still unnamed baby black rhino was recently born in Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. The baby calf belongs to the critically endangered species of Eastern Black Rhinoceros which population has declined due to rhino horn poaching.   ( Cassey Kutilek | Lincoln Park Zoo )

A rare Black Eastern baby rhinoceros is the latest addition to Lincoln Park Zoo's family of endangered rhinos.

Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo announced the birth of the still unnamed baby rhino on Twitter last May 19. The rhino's mother named Kapuki, 15, gave birth after more than a year of pregnancy. The zoo did not announce the sex of the newborn rhino.

The rhino's father is 33-year old male rhino named Maku. Kapuki and Maku had another baby rhino calf in 2013, King, who is now living at Brookfield Zoo also known as Chicago's Zoological Park.

The zoo is keeping watch of the critically endangered baby rhino and its mother, and posts updates on social media using the hashtag #RhinoWatch. The first 48 hours of the baby rhino is critical, prompting the zoo's animal care experts to constantly monitor the calf and mother via a camera.

"Kapuki's maternal instincts kicked right in and she has been seen tending to the calf," Lincoln Park Zoo announced on Twitter. The baby calf was seen nursing several times from its mother and reportedly stood on its own at 53 minutes of age. Black rhino calves usually start to wean at about 2 months of age.

Endangered Black Rhinos

Black rhinos are smaller than the white rhinos, although both have a dark gray skin color. Adult male rhinos can weigh up to 1,350 kilograms (2,976 lbs.) while females can reach up to 900 kilograms (1,984 lbs.) Black rhinos often originate from southern and eastern Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

The eastern black rhinoceros or the Diceros bicornis michaeli is among the four subspecies of the black rhinoceros. Eastern black rhinos are classified by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as critically endangered as their numbers have declined by over 90 percent over the last three generations. The western black rhino was officially declared extinct in 2013, while only two female northern white rhinos remain as of 2018.

Females black rhinos reach sexual maturity at 4 to 5 years of age and do not have their first calf until they are between 6 and a half to 7 years old. Males wait until they are aged 10 to 12 before they can claim territory and mate.

Black rhinos have a lifespan of 40 to 50 years of age. However, they are constantly under threat due to rhino poaching that has escalated in recent years. Poachers often target the horns of black rhinos, which are in demand in Asian countries, particularly Vietnam.

Rhino Horns

According to Save The Rhino, rhino horns are similar in structure to hooves of horses, turtle beaks, and cockatoo bills. The horns are made of thousands of hair-like strands of keratin. It also has large quantities of sulphur-containing amino acids, particularly cysteine, as well as tyrosine, histidine, lysine, and arginine, and the salts calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate.

Black rhinos have two horns which can grow continuously from the base of their skin throughout their lifespan. Males have thicker horns while the females often have longer and thinner horns. The size and shape of rhino horns differ depending on their area of origin.

The near extinction of black and white rhinoceros is due to decades of rampant poaching for rhino horn. Rhino horns are poached for their alleged medicinal uses.

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