Monday, September 26, 2011

Zuri Turns Two

Two years ago our local zoo made the national news with the birth of a baby black rhino. Eventually named Zuri, Swahili for "beautiful", the female rhino weighed in at 75 pounds and was one of three baby rhinos born that year. 

The black rhinoceros, also known as the hook-lipped rhinoceros, is endangered in the wild. The Baton Rouge Zoo bred Zuri as part of its participation in the Species Survival Plan (SSP). Organized by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the SSP began in 1981 as a cooperative population management and conservation program for selected species in zoos and aquariums in North America. 

Zuri became an instant hit at the zoo. She made her public debut around the time of Boo at the Zoo in 2009 and was not shy about posing for the adoring public.

Zuri at one month

Baby Zuri profile

Following Mama

This year the zoo celebrated Zuri’s second birthday. Since John has a zoo membership and I get in for free as his guest, we decided to go see what the fuss was about. Zuri was not posing for pictures, at least not while we were there. I tried to grab a shot of her sleeping in the distance with her mother, Gemstone, but it was too blurry to see anything. We did sign a happy birthday banner for her. The docent also told us Zuri now weighs 1000 pounds, more than half as much as her mother, who weighs 1800. I wonder if they are having mother-daughter squabbles now that Zuri is older. “Why can’t I pierce my horns, mom? All the other rhinos are doing it. You are so old fashioned!” Probably not.

We missed them serving her special birthday cake, with the carrots for candles.

While I didn’t get any shots of Zuri, I did get a few of the tigers in the zoo’s Realm of the Tiger exhibit. It opened last year.
Sumatran Tigers

Malaysian Tiger

Next on the list for upgrading is a new elephant pavillion, with shaded resting spots for both the elephants and the humans. Back in the 1960’s, a local children’s television personality known as Buckskin Bill urged the community to build a zoo. When Baton Rouge voted in the funding for the zoo, he led a penny drive to raise money to buy the first two elephants for the zoo. The elephants, one of whom was named Penny, were there when the zoo opened in 1970. The new zoo had what were spacious animal habitats for its day, but it is continuously being updated to provide more naturalistic homes for its residents. The elephants are long overdue for nicer digs.

I know a lot of people don’t like zoos. When we were on our Antarctic cruise, John and I were eating dinner with two of the naturalists one night when one of them asked us about Baton Rouge. Since we had been looking at a lot of wildlife, I unthinkingly said, “It has a nice zoo.” I got a strained smile in response, along with the comment that, “You really shouldn’t mention zoos to a naturalist.”

I can understand that, but at the same time, if you had never seen a lion or a tiger or a hook-lipped rhinoceros, would you care if they went extinct? Zuri puts a face on a sad problem. She also serves as a shot at a solution.

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