aoto, a rare male white rhino, arrived at Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park from San Diego Zoo Safari Park to kick off one of conservation’s breeding programs.
The project is set to bring in completely new blood lines to improve genetic diversity for managed populations and help fight against extinction.
As part of Wildlife World’s dedication to rhino conservation, the zoo has been consulting, researching and planning its innovative breeding program as part of the completed rhino facility that opened in early 2018.
“It’s immensely rewarding to know that Wildlife World had the resources and capabilities to import our female rhinos from Africa where they are no longer at risk of being slaughtered by poachers and provide them and Maoto a natural environment to procreate,” said Kristy Morcom, Wildlife World’s director of media relations.
“This breeding program has been nearly a decade in the making, and it feels great to know that everyone’s hard work has finally paid off. We are all so excited to be entering the next phase, which is welcoming baby rhinos that will become the front-runners in saving their species.”
During the past 35 years, Wildlife World has supplied in-kind support, staff expertise, and tens of thousands of dollars to local, national and international organizations dedicated to the survival of the world’s most endangered species and to rhino conservation efforts.
The entire rhino population is at risk. At the start of the 20th century, 500,000 rhinos roamed the wild. By 1970, the worldwide population fell to 70,000. Today, 29,000 rhinos survive in the wild.
With the species’ survival at stake, select rhino populations are being protected by armed guards instructed to “shoot on site” as a last-ditch effort to preserve the iconic creatures. In South Africa alone, poachers kill three or more rhinos per day to meet the black-market demand for rhino horn, which is falsely believed to be an aphrodisiac in some Asian cultures.
All five living rhino species (black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan) are in peril from poaching, forest loss and human settlements encroaching on their habitats in Africa, Indonesia and India. Rhinos live in small, isolated populations that often cannot get together to breed.
In 2011, the western black rhino, a subspecies of the black rhino, was declared extinct due to poaching. The burgeoning middle classes in China and Vietnam are increasingly able to afford rhino horn. This demand drives record poaching rates. Even in light of their fading population, poachers break into rhino orphanages and sanctuaries, and are even starting to target zoos to slaughter these animals for their ivory, which is made of keratin — the same protein that makes up hair and fingernails.
“It’s my hope that through education, awareness and our new breading program, we can work together in the fight for the rhino’s survival — to guarantee a viable genetic population and ensure that no more rhino species go extinct,” said Mickey Ollson, director and founder of Wildlife World.
“If the persecution of this species continues, we will likely see the rhino go extinct from the wild within our lifetime.”
With more than 600 species and 6,000 animals on display, there are always new arrivals at Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park. Other babies on display include a baby giraffe, baby tapir, a litter of black-backed jackals, endangered addax and Arabian oryx, and other youngsters throughout the 100-acre park.
Wildlife World’s keepers and veterinarians have raised dozens of species of wild and endangered animals over the past several decades. Wildlife World strives to maximize genetic diversity in the zoological population with its breeding programs. As a USDA-licensed, private institution, accredited by the Zoological Association of America and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums, Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park does not receive taxpayer funding. No tax dollars have ever been spent to build or operate Wildlife World in its 36-year history.
Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park
9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily;
9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for aquarium
16501 W. Northern Avenue,