Journey to obtain a rare rhino was gargantuan endeavor for Niabi Zoo

Local News

Niabi Zoo has its first rhinoceros on the grounds after years of preparation.

The zoo in Coal Valley held a special presentation for donors who made bringing Kito to the Quad Cities a reality.  

It took hundreds of donors raising more than $109,000 that funding included refurbishing his habitat.

But the journey to bring Kito to the quad cities was long and grueling and he needs special care.

Kito, a white rhino, is the newest addition to the Niabi Zoo, more than $109,000 to bring Kito the Quad Cities. Niabi Zoo had to work with a rhino population management team to help find a suitable rhino for the zoo. That is easier said than done because according to Lee Jackson, director of Niabi Zoo, the population of white rhinos has been shrinking

“Almost no rhinos are brought in from the wild anymore,” Jackson said. “Rhinos that you see in zoos are all kept-born animals so that’s why we have population management plans to manage the genetics and the general population for the animals in North America because it’s very rare to bring in animals like this in the wild anymore.”

Once they found Kito, the next step was to find a way to transport him to the zoo.

“You don’t just walk a rhino across the country or put it on a plane,” Jackson said. “So we had to arrange transport with some specialized exotic animal haulers and get on their schedule. Kito came to us from the Fresno Zone in California so he came all the way across country to us.”

Lee Jackson says seeing Kito for the first time when he showed up was very emotional. Kito is two years old and weighs more than 2,000 pounds, but he could get to 6,000 pounds when he’s done growing. Jackson says rhinos are very strong, so they had to rhino-proof the area.

“One of the first things we had to do was reinforce the area that we’re keeping the rhino, as you can see this is,” he said. “Most recently we had Bactrian Camels. In the past we’ve even had elephants here, but even with those large animals we had to make some changes to make it rhino-proof.”

Niabi Zoo plans to bring in a female white rhino next spring to mate with Kito and increase the population.

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