North America’s oldest living black rhinoceros has passed a major milestone. Elly, a rhino who has lived at the San Francisco Zoo since 1974, just celebrated her 45th birthday.
Black rhinos are critically endangered due to threats from poachers, and some sub-species, like the western black rhino, have already gone extinct. Elly has done her part to revive the rare species, giving birth to 14 calves over her lifetime. She’s a grandmother to 15 and a great-grandmother to six. She celebrated her big day (an approximation, since no one knows her actual birthday) on January 1 with oats and molasses arranged to spell out “45.”
Black rhinos originate from southern Africa, and 40 percent of the world’s population lives in South Africa. They typically live 30 to 40 years in the wild. Elly is approaching record-setting old age in her fifth decade; the oldest living black rhino on record died in 2000, at age 49. Macite, a southern white rhino who is the oldest captive rhino and lives at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, is approaching her 53rd birthday.