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Critically endangered black rhino Born at White Oak Conservation

Photo: White Oak Conservation
Photo: White Oak Conservation

YULEE, Fla. – White Oak Conservation, a refuge for rare species in Northeastern Florida, announced the birth of a male black rhino on Wednesday.

Staff named the feisty youngster “Rocky” after the boxing legend.

The rhino was born to parents of South African ancestry. At birth in August, he weighed in at 70 pounds and at four months old, he now tips the scales at 250 pounds.

Photo: White Oak Conservation

“Mom has been great and protective, keeping him very close,” Brandon Speeg, director of conservation at White Oak, said. “That’s why in the wild, rhino calves are not a real easy target for carnivores. They have a large, protective mom to watch over them.”

Tragically though, rhinos are easy targets for poachers. In the past decade, thousands of rhinos have been killed by poachers for their horns.

As a result, black rhinos are now “critically endangered” throughout Africa. Rhino horns are illegally smuggled out of Africa to Asia, where they are traded on the black market as status symbols and as treatment for hangovers, headaches and fevers, even though they have no medicinal value. Rhino horns are made of keratin, the same as fingernails and hooves.

White Oak provides a protected home in the northeast corner of Florida for three of the world’s five remaining rhino species. White Oak’s 17,000 acres of quiet forest provide sanctuary for healthy and growing populations of black, white and greater one-horned rhinos (also known as Indian rhinos).

Rhinos first came to White Oak in 1985. Black rhinos from Zimbabwe were brought to White Oak in 1993 to start a breeding program in case the wild population was lost.

Facts about black rhinos

  • Africa is home to black rhinos and white rhinos
  • Rhinos occurred throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, but have been wiped out from 28 African countries
  • In the wild, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya have the largest surviving populations
  • They are classified as “critically endangered” by the IUCN Red List.
  • Black and white rhinos both have two “horns” which are not true horns, but are actually compressed hair
  • Black rhinos are “browsers,” meaning they eat leaves from bushes and trees. One distinguishing feature is their hooked upper lip which they use to strip leaves off branches.
  • By 1993, only 2,300 black rhinos remained in the wild, down from approximately 65,000 in 1970.
  • Due to incredible reintroduction and protection efforts, black rhinos  were rebounding in many African countries and had grown to 5,600 individuals in 10 countries, but new consumption trends in Asia have led to escalating poaching again.

About the Authors:

Carianne Luter is a social media producer for News4Jax and has worked at Channel 4 since December 2015. She graduated from the University of North Florida with a degree in communications.