March has been a busy month for Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park in Litchfield Park, with two rare new arrivals.
Zoo officials announced the birth of Boulder, a rare South American at the facility March 9, noting the calf would receive around-the-clock care by Wildlife.
The zoo also announced on March 23 the arrival of Maoto, a massive adult male white rhinoceros sent from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park as park of Wildlife World’s breeding program.
The zoo, aquarium and safari park, 16501 W. Northern Ave., is open daily to visitors wishing to see its more than 6,000 residents.
Vulnerable to extinction, the South American Tapir is threatened by habitat destruction and hunting for their meat and hides, zoo officials said in a press release. Due to their large size, slow rate of reproduction and sensitivity to habitat loss, tapirs are often among the first species to decline when humans disturb an ecosystem.
The South American tapir is the largest surviving native terrestrial mammal in the Amazon, the release stated.
Tapirs play an incredibly important role in developing and maintaining healthy ecosystems. Known as “Gardeners of the Forest,” they consume a vast variety of plant matter, then disperse the seeds through their scat, the release stated. This not only improves forest health overall, it spreads the seeds of certain slow-growing trees with very dense wood — the very trees most important for sequestering carbon. This makes the tapir one of the world’s most crucial helpers in combating climate change!
Tapirs are among the most primitive large mammals in the world, changing little in appearance for millions of years. This prehistoric-looking animal looks like a massive pig with a long snout. However, because they have an odd number of toes (four toes on each front foot, three on each back foot), their closest relatives are horses and rhinos.
With more than 600 species and 6,000 animals on display, there are always new arrivals at facility. Other babies on display include a baby giraffe, litter of black-backed jackals, endangered addax & Arabian oryx and other youngsters throughout the 100-acre park, officials said.
Maoto’s arrival will kick off one of conservation’s most anticipated breeding programs, bringing in completely new blood lines to improve genetic diversity for managed populations and help fight against the extinction of the species,” zoo officials stated.
As part of Wildlife World’s dedication to rhino conservation, the zoo has been hard at work consulting, researching and planning its innovative breeding program, as part of the rhino facility that opened in early 2018.
“It’s immensely rewarding to know that Wildlife World had the resources and capabilities to import our female rhinos from Africa where they are no longer at risk of being slaughtered by poachers and provide them and Maoto a natural environment to procreate. This breeding program has been nearly a decade in the making and it feels great to know that everyone’s hard work has finally paid off! We are all so excited to be entering the next phase, which is welcoming baby rhinos that will become the front runners in saving their species!” said Kristy Morcom, Wildlife World’s director of media relations.
Over the past 35 years, Wildlife World has supplied in-kind support, staff expertise and tens of thousands of dollars to local, national and international organizations dedicated to the survival of the world’s most endangered species, and to rhino conservation efforts.
The entire rhino population is at risk. At the start of the 20th century, 500,000 rhinos roamed the wild. By 1970, the worldwide population fell to 70,000. Today, only 29,000 rhinos survive in the wild.
With the species’ survival at stake, select rhino populations are being protected by armed guards instructed to “shoot on site” as a last-ditch effort to preserve the iconic creatures. In South Africa alone, poachers kill three or more rhinos per day in order to meet the black-market demand for rhino horn, which is falsely believed to be an aphrodisiac in some Asian cultures.
All five living rhino species — black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan — are in great peril from poaching, forest loss and from human settlements encroaching on their habitats in Africa, Indonesia and India. Rhinos live in small, isolated populations that often cannot get together to breed, the release stated.
In 2011, the Western black rhino, a subspecies of the black rhino, was declared extinct due to poaching. The burgeoning middle classes in China and Vietnam are increasingly able to afford rhino horn, which has driven record poaching rates.
Even in light of their fading population, poachers continuously break into rhino orphanages and sanctuaries, and have targeted zoos to slaughter rhinos for their ivory, which is made of nothing more than keratin — the same protein that makes up human hair and fingernails.
“It’s my hope that through education, awareness and our new breading program, we can work together in the fight for the rhino’s survival-to guarantee a viable genetic population and ensure that no more rhino species go extinct. If the persecution of this species continues, we will likely see the rhino go extinct from the wild within our lifetime,” Mickey Ollson, Wildlife World director and founder, said.
Wildlife World’s keepers and veterinarians have raised dozens of species of wild and endangered animals over the past quarter century, striving to maximize genetic diversity in the zoological population with their breeding programs.
As an USDA-licensed, private institution, accredited by the Zoological Association of America and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums, Wildlife World Zoo receives no taxpayer funding. No tax dollars have ever been spent to build or operate Wildlife World in its 36-year history, officials said.
For more information about the facility, its programs and residents, visit wildlifeworld.com.