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Great Plains Zoo Puts Greater Focus on Black Rhino Conservation


SIOUX FALLS: One of the cornerstones of the Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History’s mission is conservation. Protecting endangered animals is the driver behind all the zoo does, from educating children about animal species from around the globe to offering a round up for conservation option when you purchase your ticket; everything circles back to the goal of saving animals from extinction.

The Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History (GPZ) believes immediate action is needed to help conserve one of the world’s rarest animal species, the Black Rhino, and is taking the next step toward this focus at the beginning of 2021 with a new partnership with Dr. Jeff Muntifering.

Conservation Biologist Jeff Muntifering has been working with Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) in Namibia for nearly 20 years. Muntifering has helped to pioneer SRT’s internationally-acclaimed community-based black rhino conservation efforts. The Great Plains Zoo is proud to be directly supporting boots-on-the-ground conservation efforts like this; supporting ongoing work in the natural habitat of a species is critical to providing a well-rounded conservation plan.

“Supporting Jeff’s work in Namibia is a major step forward for conservation efforts coming out of GPZ. We have built a successful Black Rhino reproduction program here at the zoo, which is vital for maintaining genetic diversity within the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA) community of zoos. Now we are taking this a step further by focusing on Black Rhino conservation in their natural habitat in Namibia,” Matt Eschenbrenner, Director of Animal Care and Conservation, said.

Extinction is permanent, and only by working together in an ‘all hands on deck’ approach will we ensure the long term survival of these marvelous species. Additionally, none of this is possible without developing strong partnerships with multiple organizations with the same goals. No one entity can take on such a tall task of keeping animals from extinction alone.

GPZ is currently home to three Black Rhinos: Jubba, Imara, and their offspring Komati. By having Black Rhinos viewable to the public in a state-of-the-art facility, it allows guests to see these wonderous creatures in person and learn about their natural history. These animals act as ambassadors for the species; nothing fosters a love for a species better than an in-person meeting or interaction, and love is often converted into action. Without GPZ, many in South Dakotans would never have the opportunity to experience these animals.  

“There are many parallels with South Dakota’s noble efforts to restore the bison and Namibia’s efforts to restore Black Rhinos to the wild. This new partnership clearly indicates that the Great Plains Zoo has chosen to become a leader amongst zoo-based support for wild Black Rhino. With the species on exhibit at the zoo, Great Plains is in a unique position to establish and cultivate creative connections between what its patrons encounter and experience at the zoo to what it is directly supporting on the ground in Africa,” Dr. Muntifering said.

A member of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA) SAFE Program for Black Rhinos, GPZ aims to be a regional conservation leader of the species. GPZ is proof that by focusing on a few initiatives and doing them well, a zoo of its size can make an impact on a global level. The public can join GPZ’s efforts by purchasing a membership, rounding up for conservation during their visits, attending a special event, or making a donation specifically for conservation.

  • Love this zoo! Great place to get a walk in and the animals are everywhere! The museum/indoor part is very educational too. Has a lot of shade for when it's hot out. Very clean. Friendly staff.

    Taylor F.
  • We love to visit the zoo. They have great outdoor exhibits and lots to do inside as well. Great for kids and adults.

    Robin A.
  • Lots of great exhibits and animals to see! Fun gift shop and learning center.

    Stephanie N.
  • The museum gives you a break from the sun on hot summer days and has a great selection of animal exhibits from around the world. ¬†The zoo keeps growing and adding new animal habitats or improving existing ones. ¬†Membership offers reciprocal benefits to other zoos around the country.

    Bill T.