LANSING, Mich. — A black rhino named Jaali was born at Potter Park Zoo on Dec. 24, 2019. It was a Christmas miracle, because only about three black rhinos are born each year at zoos in the U.S.
"Jaali has really been a real ray of sunshine in a fairly difficult year. Being one of the few rhinos born in zoos in the U.S., he has really shone a spotlight on the zoo throughout the whole year and the thing that we’ve learned the most is just how fun it is to have a little rhino running around the zoo and really the community engagement that comes with it," said Pat Fountain, animal care supervisor at Potter Park Zoo.
When Jaali was born he weighed roughly 70 pounds. He now weighs in at about 850 pounds. Doppsee, Jaali’s mom, weighs about 2,800 pounds, so while Jaali is growing quickly, he isn’t done quite yet.
"So Jaali has a little bit of his dad’s personality, and a little bit of his mom’s personality," Fountain said. "His mom is very loving…he likes to come up and say hello in the morning and dad can be a little spunky and rambunctious. So at times you’ll see Jaali exhibit behavior just like his mom and he’ll want all the love and attention you can give him, and then sometimes he’ll toss his head around and run around the stall and act like a big tough guy even though he’s only a year old."
Jaali has quickly become a local celebrity, appearing in videos released by the zoo and, just last month, on special Lansing Black Rhinos T-shirts being sold by the Lansing Lugnuts to benefit the zoo. But he is also a symbol of hope for his species.
"So with that comes a lot of fanfare but it comes with a lot of responsibility for us to make sure that we’re involved in his breeding plans, and working with other [Association of Zoos and Aquariums] facilities to make sure that we help keep the population strong and growing. So, in the future, we are hopeful that Jaali will get his own breeding recommendation and be able to go to another zoo and be able to grow the population of black rhinos," Fountain said.
Until Jaali receives a breeding recommendation at about 3 years old, you'll be able to visit and watch him at Potter Park Zoo, along with his mom, Doppsee, and his dad, Phineas.
"He really, really has been the brightest spot of the year and the keepers and the whole zoo staff have loved every minute of watching him grow up and we can’t wait to see what happens in the future," Fountain said.