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Lansing zoo seeking new endangered rhino

Potter Park Zoo
Phineas, a 9-year old eastern black rhino

Potter Park, Michigan's oldest public zoo, is working to preserve one of the world's most critically endangered species. Now it's waiting on approval to transport an eastern black rhino male from Texas, in hopes that it may breed with of the zoo's female rhinos.

The Ingham county board of commissioners must approve the cost of the move before the zoo can proceed.

The male, Phineas, and female, Doppsee, were selected as potential breeding matches by the conservation group Black Rhino Species Survival Plan (SSP) due to their genetic compatibility. There are 57 black rhinos in North American zoos, and fewer than 800 remain in the world. 

Cynthia Wagner is the director of Potter Park. She says the extremely long reproductive process of rhinos makes breeding programs crucial.

"They only breed every three to four years. So you really have to take advantage of the opportunity when you have animals that are genetically valuable and that match up very well, and get them in the same place to breed, especially while they're young," Wagner said.

Wagner says the animals are perilously close to extinction. "If poaching continues at that rate, it will be hard for the population to keep up just because of how long it takes to reproduce," she said. "We need more calves, even in zoos, in order to keep the population stable and genetically viable." 

Phineas is currently training to voluntarily enter the crate that would transport him by truck from the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Texas, if things move ahead as planned. He will spend the trip be in a climate-controlled cabin.

Mateus DeFaria is a Senior at the University of Michigan majoring in Political Science. Born and raised just outside of Los Angeles, he came to school in the midwest in efforts to expand his horizons and tackle new challenges far away from home (which may have at one time included learning how to do laundry).
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