Rare black rhino born Christmas Eve at Michigan zoo

LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan zoo welcomed the birth on Christmas Eve of a critically endangered black rhinoceros calf.

Officials at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing announced Tuesday that the zoo’s 12-year-old black rhino, Doppsee, gave birth around 5:40 a.m. to a yet-to-be-named calf. Within 90 minutes of his birth, the calf was standing, zoo officials said.

Critically Endangered Black Rhino Calf Born at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, MI

For the first time in our 100 year history, a black rhino calf has been born at Potter Park Zoo! Doppsee gave birth at 5:40 a.m. this morning (December 24). Animal care and veterinary staff are happy to report that the calf stood up about an hour and a half after birth and appears to be nursing well. Doppsee and her son (it's a boy!) are bonding behind the scenes in the rhino barn at Potter Park Zoo and will not be visible to the public until weather allows in the spring of 2020. There are just over 50 black rhinos in the care of AZA-accredited zoos. On average less than two black rhino calves are born in human care each year, making every calf born vital to this critically endangered population.

Posted by Potter Park Zoo on Tuesday, December 24, 2019

"So far, the rhino calf appears healthy and we have observed frequent nursing shortly after birth, which is encouraging," Potter Park zoo veterinarian Ronan Eustace said in a news release.

The mother and calf are not expected to appear in front of the public until weather allows in the spring of 2020. In the meantime, zoo officials said they would bond in the zoo's rhino barn.

"This is a monumental moment for Potter Park Zoo that has taken our staff years of planning and hard work," said the zoo's director, Cynthia Wagner. "We are dedicated to conserving rhinos and couldn't be more excited about this successful black rhino birth."

Black rhinos were once prevalent across most of Africa, but their populations declined dramatically as European hunters and settlers pursued the animals, according to Save the Rhino. The number of rhinos in the wild dropped to fewer than 2,500 in 1995, but conservation efforts have since helped to double that population to as many as 5,500 today, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

There are about 50 black rhinos in the care of North American zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, according to Potter Park Zoo officials. The zoos are managed by the Species Survival Plan, officials said, which led to the match between Doppsee and her mate, Phineus.

Doppsee began living in Lansing in 2011, according to the Lansing State Journal. Phineus moved from Texas to Lansing in 2017, officials said.

“I am absolutely thrilled we had the opportunity to breed black rhino,” Amy Morris-Hall, executive director of the Potter Park Zoological Society, told the State Journal. “That we had a successful birth here is just thrilling for everybody at the zoo.”