A baby black rhino was born at a Michigan zoo on Christmas Eve, a rarity for this 'critically endangered' species

A baby black rhino was born on December 24 — Christmas Eve day — at the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Michigan. It marked a rare occurrence of a "critically endangered" black rhino being born in captivity.

The mother, 12-year-old Doppsee, gave birth to a male calf at 5:40 a.m. local time. It was a first in the 100-year history of the zoo — and a first for the mother black rhino — the zoo said in a news release. The calf's father is a black rhino brought to Michigan from Texas to bread with Doppsee.

"As this is Doppsee's first pregnancy, the animal care and veterinary staff will continue to monitor Doppsee and her calf closely in the next few weeks," Potter Park Zoo veterinarian Dr. Ronan Eustace, said in the release. "But so far, the rhino calf appears healthy and we have observed frequent nursing shortly after the birth, which is encouraging."

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Baby black rhino Potter Park Zoo in Michigan
Baby black rhino Potter Park Zoo in Michigan

"Black rhinos are critically endangered and are being pushed to the brink of extinction by illegal poaching and loss of habitat," according to the Potter Park Zoo. "Current estimates show that only about 5,000 individual black rhinos are alive in the wild today."

According to World Wildlife Fund, while efforts to save the population from its low point (the number of black rhinos declined a staggering 98% between the960 and 1995 to 2,500), the species is still threatened by poaching for their two horns.

In captivity there are only 50 of the species in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Potter Park Zoo said in its release, and they are managed by the which are managed by the Species Survival Plan (SSP) to ensure genetic diversity. On average, fewer than two black rhinos are born into human care each year.

The baby black rhino will not make its public debut until spring of 2020, when more favorable weather permits. Until then, the zoo will share updates about the bonding mother and baby.

Earlier this year, a different species of rhino — the northern white rhino — got a bit of good news, after scientists successfully fertilized two embryos from the last two northern white rhinos.