Human Interest

Endangered black rhinos thriving in Czech zoo thanks to devoted caretakers

By Gustavo Monge

Prague, Mar 17 (EFE).- A group of dedicated and affectionate caretakers is successfully breeding endangered black rhinos at a Czech zoo to save the animals from extinction.

Last year half of all the world’s newborn black rhinos were welcomed at the Dvur Kralove Czech Zoo, located 150 kilometers east of Prague.

The latest addition to the growing family was born on March 4. Before that, there was Mihindi, born December 13, 2022, and Kyiv, born a year ago and named in honor of Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion.

Since the rhino breeding program began at the Czech zoo in the 1970s, some 60 of the large mammals have been born, including 49 rare black rhinos.

The number of black rhinos left in the wild has dwindled to around 800 after years of persecution and poaching.

“Having a group of young rhinos to start with and caretakers who don’t work within fixed schedules” is one of the keys to the success of this program, Jan Zdarek, who has been working at the zoo for four decades, tells Efe.

Keepers prepare each animal its own personalized menu which is placed in a box with its name and contains different foods depending on its age, preferences and condition.

Eastern black rhinos eat fruit, especially bananas, vegetables like kohlrabi and carrots, shrubs and fruit trees — they particularly enjoy cherry tree branches.

The daily cost to maintain one of these large mammals is around 16 euros, half what would usually be spent on a white rhino menu.

The mammals have sharp hearing and a keen sense of smell and get used to being called by their name.

The keepers even train females who give birth to newborns to pump breast milk which is stored for moments of need.

Several black cats roam the rhino reserve, including Mia, who, in addition to hunting rodents, plays with rhinos, which has a positive effect on the animals, says Zdarek.

In addition to the 49 eastern black rhinos born on the premises, the zoo has five northern white rhinos, which are now practically extinct in the wild.

Kenya is home to the world’s only two semi wild northern white rhinos, Najin and Fatu, both of whom were bred at the Czech zoo.

Dvur Kralove is the only facility of its kind where this rare subspecies has been successfully bred, although it now relies more on advanced assisted reproduction and stem-cell techniques.

Using sophisticated procedures, experts are trying to obtain primordial germ cells so that Fatu, 23, does not have to ovulate.

The Czech zoo is also home to two southern whites, a cross between southern and northern white rhinos, as well as three Indian rhinos.

So far, nine eastern black rhinos have been returned to their natural habitat in Rwanda and Tanzania, and mammals have also been transferred to other partners in a conservation network, made up of 15 zoos in Europe and America. EFE


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