San Diego zoo makes stop in East Texas for help in rhino conservation effort

(Source: KLTV)
(Source: KLTV)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A team from San Diego Zoo Global made a trip to Lufkin to further its effort in the conservation of southern white rhinos.

San Diego Zoo Global is a not-for-profit organization that operates the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The purpose for their visit to Lufkin's Ellen Trout Zoo was to collect genetic material from one of its male Southern white rhinos, 23-year-old Bwana. Zoo scientists said rhinos like Bwana are grossly under-represented.

"Which means their genetics become valuable to then put in the gene pool," said Mike Nance, THE staff veterinarian at Ellen Trout Zoo.

This is the first time the two zoos have partnered up for such a process. The collection will be taken back to San Diego, which has a facility to freeze the sperm for later use.

"Lufkin has a very valuable male, and these decisions were made on genetic diversity, " said Barbara Durant, director of reproductive sciences at San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research. "We're trying to keep the North American population diversity, and their male is an unrepresented male, but also genetically valuable."

It took more than 30 people to help in the process: 17 people from San Diego, five people from the Houston Zoo, 3 people from Dallas, and five others from Lufkin to strap down and extract the reproductive fluid.

"So, that semen that we collected today was excellent quality, and we got a very large volume - very, very good collection," Durant said.

It was all done in an effort to preserve the population of the Southern white rhinoceros.

"We can't wait with the Southern white rhino until we're in the situation with the Northern white rhino," said Durant. "There's two individuals left. We're not going to let that happen to the Southern white rhino."

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