Time Running Out for Rare Rhino and Mate

Associated Press

The Houston Zoo wants to spend $57,600 to find out why Samburu, a rare white rhinoceros, has failed for 15 years to impregnate his mate, Marsabit.

Samburu and Marsabit were captured in 1966 in Africa and brought to the Houston Zoo five years later. But Marsabit is 18 years old, and her biological clock is winding down.

"White rhinos have lived until their 50s, but they are reproductive only until their mid-20s," zoo veterinarian Terry Blasdel said.

"More than 50% of the white rhinos in the U.S. are between 10 and 20," she said. "We're dealing with an aging population. Time is running out."

She's Been Interested

Samburu has shown interest in Marsabit over the years, Blasdel said.

"She's a little larger than he is. She chased him around and intimidated him, and he couldn't do anything," Blasdel said. "He got all excited but he was still afraid. He would charge up to her and then stop."

Zoo officials think Samburu needs a little competition to stimulate his interest again next month when Marsabit will be in heat, she said.

"There was a zoo in Tokyo that made a papier-mache rhinoceros and put it in with the rhinos, and they started breeding. Other people have done things like put in mirrors so the animals think that there are more animals than there actually are," she said.

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