Endangered rhino pregnant at OKC Zoo

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Photo of Niki the rhino for story about her

Niki, an Indian rhinoceros at the OKC Zoo, is pregnant with her second child. The Indian rhino is an endangered species. Photo credit: OKC Zoo

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An endangered rhinoceros at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is pregnant.

Niki, a 13-year-old female Indian rhinoceros, is pregnant, according to an OKC Zoo news release.

The Indian rhino is also known as the greater one-horned rhino.

“Rhino births are significant events at the Zoo so we are thrilled to share news of Niki’s pregnancy and cannot wait to welcome this new addition to our herd,” said Rachel Emory, OKC Zoo curator of pachyderms. “The Zoo is committed to the conservation of this amazing species and recognizes the vital role this calf plays in helping ensure our world’s rhino populations survive for future generations.”

The zoo’s veterinary team used hormone monitoring and ultrasounds to confirm Niki’s pregnancy.

Niki currently weighs almost 4,000 pounds.

“She appears healthy and her pregnancy is going well. She is receiving excellent care and attention from her caretakers who are working closely with the Zoo’s veterinary team to monitor both mom and calf through ongoing exams and ultrasounds,” the news release states. “Caretakers have been working with Niki through positive reinforcement training to ensure she is comfortable with these exams and voluntarily participating in her care.”

Data pix.

Niki is expected to give birth in either late October or early November 2020 following an approximately 16-month gestation period, according to the news release.

Niki conceived the calf with the zoo's 29-year-old Indian rhino, Arun. This will be Niki and Arun's first calf together. Niki has previously given birth to one calf, Rupert, born in 2014.

The yet-to-be-born calf will also be the sixth Indian rhino birth since the species became part of the Zoo’s animal population in 1981. Niki’s first calf, a male named Rupert, was born in 2014. Rupert now lives at Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Ind.

Arun came to the OKC Zoo in February 2019 from the Fort Worth Zoo as part of a breeding recommendation by the greater one-horned rhinoceros species survival plan (SSP), the news release states.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) developed SSP programs to oversee breeding management and sustainability of select animal species within AZA-member zoos and aquariums.

The Zoo’s Sanctuary Asia is also home to 32-year-old Shanti, an adult, female Indian rhino who also came from the Fort Worth Zoo with Arun.

Indian rhinos are native to northern India and southern Nepal. They are currently listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, according to the news release.

Wild Indian rhino populations have recovered from under 200 animals to approximately 3,600 today over the past century thanks to conservation programs, the news release states.

However, the Indian rhino continues to experience a decline in the quality of their natural habitat and continues to be illegally hunted for its horn, according to the news release.

"The OKC Zoo is helping save Indian rhinos by supporting the International Rhino Foundation’s efforts to protect vulnerable and critically endangered rhinos and their habitat in India with money from the Round Up for Conservation Fund," the news release states. "The Zoo’s Round Up for Conservation program encourages guests to donate their change from any Zoo purchase to help protect wildlife and wild places around the world. Plus, the Zoo’s American Association of Zookeepers chapter has raised more than $373,000 for rhinos in Asia and Africa through its fundraising efforts since 1990."

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