Sad news for the San Francisco Zoo Tuesday as it announced the passing of a rhinoceros who lived at the zoo since 1978.
Gene, who was described as a gentle and friendly black rhinoceros, died yesterday. He was 41-years old.
For the last few months, the zoo's Animal Care and Veterinary staff had been keeping a watchful eye on him because of his decreased appetite and increased lethargy. Recently a blood sample showed that Gene had kidney failure, and medical treatment focused on maintaining a comfortable quality of life for him.
Gene was named after the late Eugene Friend, who served on the Recreation and Park Commission for 24 years.
While at the zoo, Gene shared his exhibit with Elly, a female black rhino. He fathered five offspring, three of which are living at other accredited zoos.
Gene was described as being very friendly and a favorite for children.
"We nicknamed him Big Dog," his animal keeper Julie McGilvray explained, "because he loved to be rubbed, either by hand or with a scrub brush, and oftentimes he would lie down and absorb the soothing experience."
Black rhinos like Gene are a critically endangered species. They are often victims of illegal poaching for the two horns they carry on their skull.