Jozi the rhinoceros, Rose-Tu Asian elephant among the largest, most endangered land mammals
PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Two of the largest and most endangered land mammals on the planet are creating some great expectations at the Oregon Zoo. Eastern black rhinoceros Jozi and Asian elephant Rose-Tu are both pregnant, according to zoo endocrinology experts, and care staff are eagerly anticipating the arrival of not one but two extra-large additions to the zoo family.
Jozi’s baby, expected to arrive sometime between now and early January, holds much significance for the species, according Kelly Gomez, who oversees the zoo’s Africa area. Jozi and her companion, King, belong to the eastern subspecies of black rhinoceros, which is considered critically endangered.
“These two rhinos — soon to be three, we hope — represent a species that’s among the most endangered on the planet,” Gomez said. “Poaching and the illegal wildlife trade have wiped out 96% of the world’s black rhino population. In South Africa alone, we’re losing almost a rhino a day. Hopefully, their story can help inspire a new chapter in the conservation of this incredible species.”
Meanwhile, at Elephant Lands, 29-year-old Rose-Tu is pregnant with what would be her third calf. She and 25-year-old male elephant Samson, who arrived at the Oregon Zoo five years ago, have been spending a lot of time together, according to care staff. Conception is believed to have occurred in late May, and if all goes well, Rose-Tu might give birth in early 2025.
Steve Lefave, who oversees the zoo elephant area, cautions that it is still very early in the elephant’s pregnancy, and the birth of a healthy baby is never a sure thing. Gomez agrees, noting that there is even more risk involved for first-time moms like Jozi.
“We’re hoping for the best,” Lefave said. “We have an excellent animal-care team, and they’ll be doing everything they can to help each of these moms have a successful birth.”
Considered highly endangered in their range countries, Asian elephants are threatened by habitat loss, conflict with humans and disease. It’s estimated that just 40,000 to 50,000 of them remain in fragmented populations from India to Borneo, and their home range overlaps with some of the most populous human areas on the planet — 20% of people worldwide live in or next to Asian elephant habitat.