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Endangered rhino perpetuates species at KC Zoo

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An endangered eastern black rhinoceros at the Kansas City Zoo is doing her part to keep her species in existence by giving birth to her third calf in the past 10 years.

Luyisa has been at the zoo since coming over from Africa in 1997. All of her calves have been females. Her latest, Layla, was born Oct. 18.

“Everybody was very thrilled about it,” zoo general curator Liz Harmon said.

Experts say there are more male rhinos in existence than females in the captive population. So it’s a big deal when a female like Layla is born. The Kansas City Star reported Saturday that there are only a few hundred of the animals left in the world.

The Kansas City Zoo hasn’t scheduled Layla for public display until the African section of the zoo reopens April 1. The Star was given a sneak peak at the new rhino Friday.

Layla weighed 89 pounds the day after she was born and has gained 50 pounds since then. She stands about 2 feet high at the shoulder, and her horn is just starting to pop out.

When Kansas City zoo officials were in Africa getting Luyisa, the Cleveland zoo brought back a female of its own. That rhino gave birth to its fourth calf in August. All of its offspring were females as well.

“It was a good trip,” Harmon said of the 1997 journey. “It helped the population a lot.”

There are now five specimens of the eastern subspecies of black rhino in Kansas. Luyisa’s first baby died at the age of 8 while being transported to the Oregon Zoo in Portland.

Adult rhinos usually are kept separated unless conservation officers decide to breed them. Officials say the new calf’s father, Tucker, waited about a year after he was introduced to Luyisa before the two made a connection.

“When she would cycle, we’d get them together,” Harmon said. “But he didn’t have it figured out for a while.”

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kansascity.com/

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