Blank Park Zoo
Blank Park Zoo

Open Daily, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
$20 adults, $15 children

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Open Daily, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
$20 adults, $15 children

View All Rates ›

Rhino calf born at Blank Park Zoo

April 8, 2019

DES MOINES, Iowa (April 8, 2019) Officials from Iowa’s Blank Park Zoo announced today that Ayana, a nine year-old eastern black rhino, has given birth on April 5.

“Ayana is a very attentive and protective mother and taking very good care of the calf,” said Shannon McKinney, director of animal care.

Ayana’s water broke at 2:45 p.m., and birth occurred at 4:24 p.m. By 5:40 p.m., the calf was standing and walking and she started nursing by 6:35 p.m.– all signs of a healthy baby rhino calf. The calf’s first neonatal exam occurred on Sunday and confirmed she is much larger at birth than her sister - 112 pounds, female and fully developed.

“All indications from our first exam of the calf indicate that she is healthy,” said June Olds, DVM, chief veterinary programs officer.

“This is a significant event – not only for Blank Park Zoo, but also for this critically endangered animal species,” said Mark Vukovich, Blank Park Zoo CEO.

Fewer than 1,000 eastern black rhinos remain when you combine wild and captive populations. The primary reason for the decline is poaching caused by the demand for rhino horn.

“Because of the 15 - 17 month-long gestation, it is hard for rhino births to keep up with the pressures of poaching. For this reason, they are at a tipping point of deaths outnumbering births,” said Vukovich. “It is senseless because rhino horns have no medicinal value.”

A name for the calf has not been announced. Blank Park Zoo will be offering a fund-raising naming opportunity for a chance to name the baby rhino. Make a $50 donation for the opportunity to suggest one name or $100 to suggest three names. Names suggested should be in an African language. When the finalists have been selected, a public vote will be held.

Zoo officials have stated that the baby rhino will not be viewable on exhibit to allow for mom and baby bonding time. Zoo officials will release pictures, video and live webcams on its webpage and social media platforms and can be accessed via

A pair of rhinos came to Blank Park Zoo in late 2012 as part of the Jamaa Kwa Africa addition to the Zoo. Ayana’s first calf, Tumani, was born on October 11, 2016 and weighed 80 pounds at birth and nearly 1,000 pounds by her first birthday. She still lives at Blank Park Zoo, but will likely move to another zoo to participate in the Species Survival Plan breeding program.

About Black Rhinoceros (source: International Rhino Foundation,

The black rhinoceros has two horns, with the front one being the larger of the two. They can weigh up to 3,000 pounds and be 5.5 feet tall at shoulder height and up to 12.5 feet long if you include the head and body. The black rhino has a prehensile lip that is well-suited for grasping branches, leaves and shrubs. This is the species’ most distinguishing characteristic. The black rhino lives in Africa, primarily in grasslands, savannahs and tropical bush lands. Female rhinos reach maturity at four to seven years of age while males reach maturity at seven to ten years. The term ‘black rhino’ is believed to come about because of the color of the soil the rhino covers itself with while wallowing in the mud. Unlike the white rhino, black rhinos are only semi-social and do not live in herds. Between 1970 and 1992, the wild population of this species has decreased by 96 percent. Rhinos are poached for their horns which are falsely perceived to have medicinal value in some cultures.

The black rhinoceros has been named one of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums SAFE species. Learn more here:

Pictures and Videos, including video of the birth located here:

About Blank Park Zoo

The mission of Blank Park Zoo is to inspire and appreciation of the natural world through conservation, education, research and recreation. Blank Park Zoo is open 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. every day until May 1 when the hours will be expanded to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission rates are $14 for adults, $8 for children under 12, and $11 for seniors and active military. Children two years and under and Blank Park Zoo members are free. The Zoo is located at 7401 SW 9th St., Des Moines, IA 50315. Visit the Zoo online at The Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) The AZA is America’s leading accrediting organization that sets rigorous, professional standards for zoos and aquariums. The AZA is building North America's largest wildlife conservation movement by engaging and inspiring the 143 million annual visitors to its member institutions and their communities to care about and take action to help protect wildlife.



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