Cincinnati Zoo's black rhino donates plasma to its unborn calf

From Fiona to Faru: Cincy Zoo's new 'it' animal
Cincinnati Zoo's black rhino donates plasma to its unborn calf
Posted at 4:11 PM, Jun 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-16 16:11:46-04

CINCINNATI – People everywhere will celebrate their fathers this weekend, and here in the Tri-State, the Cincinnati Zoo is celebrating a black rhino father.

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is celebrating their black rhino, Faru, for donating plasma to its unborn calf.

For the past nine weeks, the Hoxworth Blood Center at the University of Cincinnati has been processing blood from the 12-year-old rhino just in case his calf, due in July, must be hand-raised. 

Christina Gorsuch, the zoo's curator of mammals, said they are banking plasma for the rhino as a safety measure if the calf’s mother, Seyia, is unable to take care of the baby.

RELATED: Zoo announces black rhinoceros Seyia is expecting a calf in summer 2017

“The hope is that the calf will nurse and be raised by her mom, but some inexperienced moms aren't sure what to do with their offspring and humans have to step in to provide nourishment and warmth,” Gorsuch said in a news release. “If that happens this time, we'll be able to give the calf the best start possible, with help from her dad.”

Historically, large volume collections of blood and plasma are conducted with an anesthetized animal, but that is not the case for Faru. 

“Thanks to our talented and patient operant conditioning team, Faru remains awake and voluntarily stands for blood draws, Gorsuch said. “Sometimes he cooperates for fifteen whole minutes. He seems to like all the attention and treats that he gets during the procedure.”

The plasma that is being collected has hemoglobin that will help boost the immune system of the calf, since it is from the same species.

The zoo has collaborated with the Hoxworth Blood Center to blank plasma since 1998.

"Just as there is no substitute for blood in humans, there is no substitute for blood in animals; therefore, we are pleased that we can use our expertise in helping to serve the animal kingdom," said Hoxworth Deputy Director Dr. Jose Cancelas.

Faru was brought to the Cincinnati Zoo from the Atlanta Zoo in 2015.

RELATED: Zoo gets go-ahead to breed female black rhino with male from Atlanta Zoo