Lincoln Park Zoo's critically endangered Eastern Black Rhinoceros pregnant

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Lincoln Park Zoo is expecting! The free-admissions zoo announced Thursday its critically-endangered Eastern Black Rhinoceros is pregnant.

The 13-year-old female named Kapuki is expected to give birth to her new calf in May at Regenstein African Journey.

Mike Murray, the zoo's Curator of Mammals, says this birth represents much more than another cute face at the zoo.

"This pregnancy is really, really important to the survival of the species," he said.

Only a few thousand Eastern Black Rhinos remain in the wild. The species has been designated as "critically-endangered" due to poaching for their horns, which are believed to have medicinal benefits despite being made of keratin, the same material that makes up human hair and nails, according to zoo officials.

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Kapuki is about 13 months into her pregnancy, which typically lasts 15-16 months.

With a gestation period of about 15-16 months, zoo officials said Kapuki's pregnancy is a result of breeding recommendations from the Eastern Black Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan that helps manage the Association of Zoos and Aquariums population.

The father is a 33-year-old male rhino named Maku. Kapuki and Maku had previously been successful in reproducing in 2013 with the birth of King, who now lives at Brookfield Zoo.

"Part of that conservation effort is also making sure we have a sustainable population here in North America," Murray said.

People can support Kapuki through her pregnancy by donating money for items on her "wish list" as her diet increases throughout the pregnancy and nursing. Park officials are also asking for help purchasing a rhino-sized scale to monitor the calf as it grows.

The new calf is expected to weigh roughly 85 lbs. when born.

To keep up with Kapuki's pregnancy, Lincoln Park Zoo said they will post regular updates on social media channels using #RhinoWatch.
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