By Sean Bowes
For the second time in two years, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is home to a new baby Indian rhinoceros. The endangered Indian rhinoceros (also known as the greater one-horned rhinoceros) was born July 13 at Lowry Park Zoo’s “Rhino Barn” within the zoo’s Asian Gardens exhibit.
According to Lowry Park Zoo spokesperson Rachel Nelson, there are a total of just 54 Indian rhinos captive in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
There are only about 2,600 Indian rhinos left in the wild, according to the Rhino Resource Center. The birth of the new male calf is a significant conservation milestone for the endangered species, says Nelson.
“We are fortunate to have an animal care team with the expertise to provide for individual animals and to join global efforts to conserve animal species who are at risk of extinction,” adds Craig Pugh, executive director and CEO of Lowry Park Zoo.
The zoo is home to a breeding pair of Indian rhinos known as Arjun, a male, and Jamie, a female. The pair’s first offspring, a female named Jaya, is now two years old and recently was relocated to Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Wichita, KS.
The newest member of the Rhino Barn had yet to be named at our press time, but the zoo launched a naming contest on its Facebook page which asks the online community to participate. Selections of Hindi names — starting with the letter “J” in honor of the calf’s mother, Jamie — are among the possible choices. Those names include: Jahi (JA-hi) which means “dignified,” Jamil (JA-mil) which means “handsome,” and Janmesh (JAN-mish) which means “king.” Zoo officials have promised that the name of the calf will be announced “soon.”
Nelson says that the gestation period for Indian rhino pregnancies is approximately 16 months. When born, calves normally weigh in the range of 75-100 pounds and will nurse throughout their first two years. They are normally able to stand within just hours of being born.
To ensure a stress-free introduction to the zoo, the mother rhino and calf spent time together off the exhibit for the newborn’s safety and privacy in bonding. Also, the father, Arjun, will be separated from the calf for the time being. According to Nelson, the calf will slowly start to be introduced into the rhino exhibit.
The Indian rhinoceros is one of five species of rhinos worldwide and one of three species found in Asia. It is native to the remote, swampy grasslands of India, Assam and Nepal. Fully grown, the species can weigh up to 6,000 lbs, roughly the weight of a 2011 Cadillac Deville with four adults and a full tank of gas with groceries in the trunk.
The Indian rhino’s most distinct feature is a single horn on the end of its muzzle (three rhino species have two horns), which is actually composed of keratin — the same protein that forms human fingernails and hair. The species has a unique upper lip, known as a prehensile lip, which acts as a hook to grasp onto plants and food in its herbivorous (grass, twigs, bamboo shoots, water hyacinths and various produce) diet. Indian rhinos have been described as having “armor-like skin” due to the presence of skin folds; however their skin is actually pretty supple, due to frequent wallowing in water and mud.
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is operated by the Lowry Park Zoological Society and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The zoo is located at 1101 W. Sligh Ave. in North Tampa and is open 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Daytime admission prices are: $23.95 for adults, $21.95 for seniors (60+), and $18.95 for children ages 3-11. Admission is free for children 2 and under and parking also is free. For info, visit LowryParkZoo.com.