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Black rhino born at Michigan zoo on Christmas Eve

The unnamed male black rhino calf was up and walking about 90 minutes after its birth on Christmas Eve at the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Mich. The species is still considered critically endangered due to illegal poaching and loss of habitat.Potter Park Zoo via The New York Times

NEW YORK — Doppsee, a 12-year-old black rhino, presented a Michigan zoo and conservationists with an early holiday gift on Christmas Eve, delivering a newborn calf in a rare zoo birth for the endangered species.

The arrival of the male calf, which has not been named yet, was the first time that a black rhino had been born at the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Mich., in its 100-year history, according to a news release.

Videos posted to the zoo’s Instagram account showed Doppsee’s delivery and the calf’s first steps, which came about 90 minutes after birth. The newborn animal appeared to be nursing, which the zoo called “encouraging.”


“As this is Doppsee’s first pregnancy, the animal care and veterinary staff will continue to monitor Doppsee and her calf closely in the next few weeks,” Ronan Eustace, a veterinarian at the zoo, said in the release. The calf’s father, Phineus, came to the zoo in 2017 to breed with Doppsee.

The public will not be able to view the mother and calf until the spring, the news release said. However, the zoo will continue to provide pictures and videos of the animals on social media and the zoo’s blog. The zoo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While the birth of a new black rhino calf warrants a celebration, the species is still considered critically endangered and could face extinction because of illegal poaching and loss of habitat, the zoo said. There are about 50 black rhinos in the care of zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

Overall, there are only about 5,000 black rhinos left in the world, according to Save the Rhino, an organization that works to conserve several rhino species, including the Sumatran rhino, whose population is less than 80.

About 98 percent of black rhinos in the world are in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Namibia, according to the African Wildlife Foundation. South Africa is home to 40 percent of the species.


Humans are the only predators to rhinos, who are hunted and killed for their horns, according to the foundation. There is a high demand for the horns in Asia, where they are used for ornamental carvings and are sometimes falsely advertised as a treatment for hangovers, impotence, and even cancer.