Iowa State veterinarian, students await rare black rhino birth

There are approximately 5,500 black rhinos remaining in the wild in central and southern Africa.
There are approximately 5,500 black rhinos remaining in the wild in central and southern Africa. | File photo
Dr. June Olds' positions at the Iowa State University Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences and senior veterinarian at Blank Park Zoo gives her veterinary students a hands-on opportunity to work with the endangered black rhino (Diceros bicornis).
 
Ayana and Kiano, the zoo's two black rhinos, arrived in 2012. Intended as a breeding pair, the two rhinos have produced one pregnancy, due this fall.
 
“Our rhinos came here as youngsters,” Olds said. “We built the rhino exhibit, and they came here when they were about 2 years old. They were meant to be a breeding pair, and so this will be the first time we’ve had a baby rhino born in Iowa.”
 
There are approximately 5,500 black rhinos remaining in the wild in central and southern Africa. Poaching and encroachment into the rhinos' habitat have drastically reduced the population. With only 60 black rhinos in zoos in the U.S., the news of Ayana's pregnancy has generated optimism among conservation and wildlife groups.
 
The zoo's wide range of inhabitants provides an opportunity for ISU veterinary students to work with everything from peacocks to tortoises to the rare black rhinos. Emily Eulberg, a fourth-year veterinary student shared her experiences after a four-week rotation at the zoo.

“With zoo medicine, you learn the basics and then you have to apply them to everything,” Eulberg said. “So this is a really good way for me to learn how to take everything I learned in vet school and apply it in a very uniform way.”

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