Fit for a King: Zoo welcomes rhino royalty to new habitat

October 1, 2021 - 12:06pm

King, an eastern black rhino from Chicago, moves in at the zoo’s new Rhino Ridge
 

The Oregon Zoo welcomed some big-time royalty recently: King, a 3,000-pound rhinoceros from Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo, arrived in town Sept. 10 and is making himself at home at the zoo’s new Rhino Ridge. 

While he’s still getting acclimated, guests may catch sight of King in the outdoor portions of the habitat as he explores his new digs

“If he’s outside, he’ll be hard to miss,” said Kelly Gomez, who oversees the zoo’s rhino area. “So far, he’s settling in really well, with a lot of attention and encouragement from his care staff.” 

King belongs to the eastern subspecies of black rhinoceros, which is considered critically endangered. In 2011, the western subspecies of black rhino was declared extinct.

“King represents a species that’s among the most endangered on the planet,” Gomez said. “Poaching and the illegal wildlife trade have wiped out 96% of the world’s black rhino population. In South Africa alone, we’re losing almost a rhino a day. Hopefully, we can help inspire a new chapter in the conservation of this incredible species.” 

To learn how small actions — everyday decisions about what to buy and do — can help protect this imperiled species, visit oregonzoo.org/help-rhinos

King was born at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo in 2013, and moved to the Brookfield Zoo in 2016. His transfer to Portland was recommended by the Species Survival Plan for black rhinos, a cooperative program among accredited zoos to promote genetically diverse, self-sustaining populations of threatened and endangered species. A female rhinoceros is expected to join King at Rhino Ridge later this fall.

“We’ve gone from half a million to a few thousand rhinos left in the blink of an eye,” noted U.K. naturalist Steve Backshall. “While those left in the wild are ludicrously precious, the rhinos that are in zoos (which were bred there, born there and cannot ever be released into the wild) are of disproportionate importance to their kind.”

Rhino Ridge is one of eight major projects made possible by the community-supported zoo bond measure passed in 2008, and was financed entirely through a $1.2 million investment by donors to the Oregon Zoo Foundation’s $8.5 million Heart of the Oregon Zoo campaign. Members, donors and corporate and foundation partners help the zoo make a difference across the region and around the world. To contribute, go to oregonzoo.org/donate.

As part of the Metro family, the Oregon Zoo helps make greater Portland a great place to call home. Committed to conservation, the zoo is also working to save endangered California condors, western pond turtles, Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies and northern leopard frogs. To learn more, visit oregonzoo.org/recovery.

The zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekends. To plan your trip, go to oregonzoo.org/visit. For more information on getting to the zoo, visit Explore Washington Park.