After winning awards for exhibits the public actually sees, the Minnesota Zoo has gotten another for a major effort on the other side of the world.

At the annual gathering last week of the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the zoo was commended for Significant Achievement in International Conservation for efforts to save the black rhino in the African nation of Namibia.

The zoo, with local government and nonprofit partners, has worked for five years in the northwest Namibian region of Kunene to find ways to keep poachers away while using professional wildlife management strategies to help what it calls the world’s largest free-ranging black rhino group grow, and have an expanded range on which to do so.

More information on the effort can be found on the website of a partner group of the zoo’s, the Save the Rhino Trust,

The rhino in its various forms is one of the more threatened animals on Earth, and the Minnesota Zoo has many partners in the fight to save rhinos.

News reports this summer out of Cincinnati have recorded efforts at that city’s zoo to mate a brother and sister rhino, a sign of outright desperation.

“No one wants to breed siblings. It is something we strive to avoid, but when a species drops below 100 individuals, producing more offspring as quickly as possible trumps concerns about genetic diversity,” zoo official Terri Roth told a local TV station. “We are down to the last male and female Sumatran rhino on the continent, and I am not willing to sit idle and watch the last of a species go extinct.”

The Minnesota Zoo doesn’t exhibit rhinos at present, but it hopes to under a new master plan for an African exhibit, mentioning a rhino “encounter [that] will offer magical moments for guests.”

Zoo officials describe the downward arc of Africa’s black rhino as “one of the most catastrophic species declines ever documented,” adding that from 1970 to 1990, more than 95 percent were killed as part of an illegal trade in rhino horn.

The species is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and continental extinction is considered possible within the next 20 years. □