Zoo's Rhino ‘Kiano’ Moves To Help Survival of Species

Great Plains Zoo
Published: December 6, 2012, 3:46 PM


The Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History today announced its two-year-old Eastern Black Rhino calf “Kiano” has moved to the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, IA, where Zoo officials hope he will start his own family.    

His relocation is an important part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) flagship conservation program, the “Species Survival Plan,” because at Blank Park Zoo, Kiano will meet his new mate, and hopefully the mother of his children.  As part of the Species Survival Plan, geneticists and biologists in the zoo community look at the very
best pairings throughout a species’ population and make recommendations for breeding to maximize genetic diversity.    

“Conservation is an essential piece of our mission,” said Elizabeth A. Whealy, President and CEO of the Great Plains Zoo.  “Through our conservation work here in Sioux Falls, and with other zoos, we are making a commitment to ensure these animals survive into the future.”   

The Great Plains Zoo works with zoos nationwide to help save 17 endangered species, including Amur Tigers, Siamang Gibbons, and Black Rhinos. 

Black Rhinos are critically endangered with fewer than 4,000 surviving in the wild.  During the last century, the black rhino has suffered the most drastic decline in total numbers for all rhino species.  In 1970, there were an estimated 65,000 black rhinos in Africa – but by 1993 there were only 2,300 surviving in the wild.  That’s more than a 95 percent reduction. 

Rhinos really don’t have any natural predators; humans are the only enemy of the rhino. Poachers seek their horns because of the price the horns fetch on the black market.  Rhino horn is worth about three-times its weight in gold.  These days, well-organized gangs poach rhinos even in protected reserves, sometimes using tranquilizer guns and helicopters.  The horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Singapore, however, it has no medicinal value.  Rhino horn is composed of keratin, the same substance that makes up human fingernails and hair.   

There are fewer than 65 Eastern Black Rhinos under human care in AZA-accredited zoos in the U.S.  Kiano was one of five Eastern Black Rhino calves born in 2010.  He is the second calf born to the Zoo’s rhinos, “Jubba” and “Imara.”  Kiano’s seven-year-old sister “Kapuki” now lives at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, IL.     

At the age of two, rhino calves begin to wean themselves from their mothers.  Kiano’s departure means Jubba and Imara may now have another opportunity to breed and produce an offspring.      

“We are excited to be helping the rhino population and seeing Kiano start a new chapter in his life,” said Whealy.  

The Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the last admission at 4 p.m. Visit the Zoo online at www.greatzoo.org or call 605-367-7003 for more information about the Zoo and Museum.