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Playful rhino is ‘most significant birth’ in Arizona zoo’s history. See the rare baby

A rare type of rhino was born at an Arizona zoo for the first time in decades — and it’s the “most significant birth” in the zoo’s history, officials said.

Baby Masiki the white rhino was born Nov. 7 “in excellent health,” Wildlife World Zoo officials said in a Nov. 21 news release. The zoo is about 25 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix.

The animal care team calls her Siki for short, the release said. She was named for her prominent ears, which were one of the first things to wiggle to life after she was born.

Those ears also kept getting in the way during ultrasounds, Wildlife World’s President Kristy Hayden said.

A video shows Siki running around and playing with her mother in their enclosure.

The birth is a significant step toward conserving the entire rhino population and was “nearly a decade in the making” through the zoo’s rhino conservation breeding plan, officials said.

Rhino populations are at risk due to extreme poaching, officials said. There were more than 500,000 wild rhinos at the beginning of the 20th century.

Only 27,000 rhinos are left in Africa, officials said. Poachers kill three or more rhinos every day to keep up with the black-market demand for their horns, “which is falsely believed to be an aphrodisiac in some Asian cultures” — though the horns are made only of keratin, “the same protein that makes up human hair and fingernails.”

Poachers routinely break into rhino orphanages, sanctuaries and sometimes even zoos, officials said.

Through the conservation breeding program, the zoo adopted three female rhinos that were orphaned in South Africa and an imported male rhino from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, officials said.

Masiki was born to Zuri, one of the females, and the male, Maoto.

“This baby opens up a whole new bloodline that will play a key role in rhino conservation for decades to come,” Hayden said in the release.

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