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Little Rock Zoo prepares for new animals, including baby rhino

The Little Rock Zoo is preparing for a historic year with new animals and record-breaking memberships.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — The Little Rock Zoo has had a huge couple of years despite the pandemic. 

The zoo's attendance has risen every year since 2019, and memberships are at a record high. The director says in the history of the membership program, there has never been so many people register.

The zoo is also getting ready for a historic addition.

The black rhino named Andazi and her mate Johari are expecting a calf this fall. This will be Andazi's second calf. She had that baby before she came to the Little Rock Zoo.

This new addition is historic because there's never been a rhino born at the zoo.

This is also historic for the conservation of the black rhino species.

"Her mate Johari is unrepresented anywhere else in the world, so his genetics are extremely valuable," said Little Rock Zoo's rhino keeper Will Shackleton.

"We're just really excited to be able to contribute to that, and you know they're just hugely cute," said Little Rock Zoo Director Susan Altrui.

The zoo is also getting back into the swing of things with the return of in-person events, new animal exhibits, and the welcoming of a new lion and otter pups.

As for the rhinos, the plan is to expand their habitat in preparation for the new baby. 

"We've still got a little more baby-proofing to do before we are ready," said Shackleton.