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Love for Lulu!

The Zoo's Eastern black rhinoceros population has grown, and a second calf is on the way, too.

Who knew a huge, grey newborn could be so cute?

Have you visited Lulu the rhino at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo?

In February, the Zoo welcomed an adorable Eastern black rhinoceros calf. Lulu, as she came to be called, is enjoying the summer months exploring her outdoor habitat. She spent a lot of the exceptionally cold Cleveland spring inside bonding with mom Kibibbi.

Lulu is the sixth Eastern black rhino calf born at the Zoo, and the second calf born to Kibibbi. Kibibbi has proved to be an able but protective mom.

“The first few weeks were critical for forming the bond between mom and calf,” said Animal Curator Travis Vineyard. “Kibibbi was very aware anytime anyone was near or in the barn so we limited access to only essential keepers and veterinary staff. She would approach the visitor and snort, keeping an eye on Lulu the whole time.”
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Early check-ups on Lulu were done by observation only, and the first major milestone was a positive one: Lulu nursed within four or five hours of birth. After that, and continuing into spring, Lulu could usually be found very close to mom, sometimes even underfoot! Video of the calf walking under and between Kibibbi’s 2,800 pound frame showed just how close mom and calf stuck together those early days.

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Now that she’s more than 200 pounds — Vineyard estimates she was born around 70 pounds — Lulu is starting to gnaw on browse and nursing every two hours or so. Rhinos are born without teeth, but when they start to chew on branches it helps the teething process. The species’ signature prehensile lip helps them graze and grasp onto branches in the wild. Their time in the Zoo is no different, with the lip used to pick up branches.

Rhinos are also born without their signature horn. They have a growth plate on the ridge of their nose, and the beginning of a horn starts to become evident at seven weeks. This is visible now on Lulu.

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Photo courtesy of Kyle Lanzer, Cleveland Metroparks

Rhino horns are the main reason the important species is endangered in the wild. Eastern black rhinos are critically endangered, and fewer than 750 Eastern black rhinos remain in the wild due to poaching and habitat loss.

“There isn’t a more iconic species to talk about conservation and the challenges that species face in the wild – and specifically about illegal wildlife trade,” said Vineyard. “Part of our mission here at the Zoo is to inspire people to personal action to secure a future for wildlife.”

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's Future for Wildlife Fund helps protect Eastern black rhinos from illegal trade and human-wildlife conflict. An online contest to name Lulu – meaning “gem” in regions of Africa – raised more than $2,500 for the Zoo’s international conservation programs. And what can Zoo guests expect of Lulu this summer?

“We haven’t had a calf in a while,” said Vineyard. “So we’ll be working to keep her enriched and engaged outdoors and in. It will be a treat to watch her develop.”

To read more about the illegal wildlife trade or to donate, click here.

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