Second endangered black rhino moves in at Oregon Zoo

December 17, 2021 - 9:41am


Jozi, a 9-year-old female from Milwaukee, joins King at the zoo's new Rhino Ridge


King, the Oregon Zoo’s male black rhino, will have some company soon: Jozi, a 9-year-old female rhino from the Milwaukee County Zoo, is now settling in at Rhino Ridge too. Caregivers hope the rhino pair will hit it off and perhaps eventually add to the population of this critically endangered species.

“Jozi’s been settling in well behind the scenes and enjoying some rhinoceros spa time,” said Michelle Schireman, senior keeper in the zoo’s Africa area. “She likes facials and loves warm showers.”

Although Jozi has yet to spend time together with King, she has started making public appearances at the zoo’s new Rhino Ridge.

Jozi, who weighs around 2,400 pounds, was born Sept. 8, 2012, at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Keepers named her after her parents: “Jo-” from her father, Jomo, and “-zi” from her mother, Aziz. She moved to the Milwaukee County Zoo in 2016. 

Caregivers say the two rhinos will continue to live apart for the time being, but they have had visual access to each other and seemed very curious. 

“There was a lot of back-and-forth vocalizing between them at first,” Schireman said. “They were like, ‘Hey, you! What’s going on over there?’ Just really nice, positive interactions. They’ll get to be in closer proximity soon and see what they think of each other.”

Jozi and King belong to the eastern subspecies of black rhinoceros, which is considered critically endangered. In 2011, the western subspecies of black rhino was declared extinct. Their transfer to Portland was recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for black rhinos. 

“These two represent a species that’s among the most endangered on the planet,” said Kelly Gomez, who oversees the zoo’s rhino area. “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.” 

“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 donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation. 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.