Rare Rhino now on display at South Texas zoo could help boost population
Zookeepers hope the Southern white rhino breeds with female counterparts
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – An endangered white rhino named Bebop is the newest member of a South Texas zoo, and zookeepers hope he gets along with his new female neighbors.
The 5-year-old Southern white rhino recently joined other endangered white rhinos on display at Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville. White rhinos are listed as near threatened, mostly from habitat loss and poaching, on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's List of Endangered Species.
Patrick Burchfield, the zoo's executive director, tells The Brownsville Herald that zoo staff is excited to have breeding-age rhinos on site.
"We have produced two baby white rhinos here at the zoo in the past," Burchfield said. "We are part of what's called a species survival program for the white rhino, and we needed to get a breeding male in here in order to breed white rhinos."
The new rhino arrived in March from the Center for Conservation of Tropical Ungulates in Punta Gorda, Florida, but underwent quarantine before being introduced to the exhibit. Zookeepers have since placed Bebop in enclosures close to the zoo's female white rhinos, Abby and Julie.
Burchfield said zoo staff members hope Bebop will successfully breed. The gestation period can take up to 18 months, Burchfield said. At birth, rhinos usually weight 140 to 150 pounds.
Burchfield noted that rhinos are hunted for their horns and keratin.
"When the Gladys Porter Zoo began, the Southern white rhino was one of the more critically endangered rhinos, and that's why we got into the white rhino business in the first place," he said. "But thanks to excellent conservation efforts in South Africa, their numbers are back to where they are the most numerous rhinos now, but they're still threatened."
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