POWELL, Ohio - Kijito, an 18-year-old African black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) died early this morning at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium after a two-day illness that resulted in lethargy and loss of appetite and fluid intake.
Recently Kijito had been under treatment for a little understood and often fatal disease that is commonly found in this species. Kijito had reoccurring bouts with the disease, often referred to as Black Rhino Syndrome, which causes ulcerative and oral skin lesions. His most recent episodes started around Thanksgiving. His health recently declined when he was unable to eat or drink.
A necropsy (animal autopsy) is being performed to try and determine the cause of his death. Black rhinos suffer from a variety of disorders of unknown etiology. Although Kijito was displaying some indicators of Black Rhino Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder, the symptoms were not acute and may not be the primary cause of death. Lack of appetite is not usually associated with this disease.
“Black Rhino Syndrome appears to have a multi-faceted etiology and clinical indications manifest themselves in multiple ways” said Assistant Curator Harry Peachey. “The Columbus Zoo has been actively involved in practical applications of research into this serious disease.”
Kijito was born in 1993 at the Brookfield Zoo and came to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in 1999. He sired one calf, Klyde, who was born on Jan. 2, 2002. Klyde was moved to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in 2009. Two female rhinos, Kulinda and Rosie, still reside at the Columbus Zoo.
The black rhino has suffered the greatest rate of decline in total numbers of all rhino species and the population dropped by 96% in just a few decades. In 1970 it was estimated there were approximately 65,000 black rhinos in Africa and by1993 there were only 2,300 surviving in the wild. Since 1996 the number has steadily increased as a result of intensive anti-poaching and conservation efforts and today there are approximately 4,200 black rhinos.
The Columbus Zoo is a long-time supporter of the International Rhino Foundation and also provides grants to individual projects through its Conservation Fund. Annually the Columbus Zoo’s Conservation Fund provides $1 million of privately raised revenue in support for more than 70 field projects and conservation organizations in 30 countries.
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The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 9,000 animals representing 675 species and provides more than $1 million annually to support over 70 conservation projects worldwide. A recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Club, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium hosts more than two million visitors annually and was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating. For more information and to purchase advance Zoo admission tickets, visit www.columbuszoo.org.