MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Less than two weeks after losing its beloved giraffe Pongo, Zoo Miami is mourning the loss of Toshi, a black rhino who had become one of the most beloved animals in the history of the zoo.

At nearly 44 years old, Toshi was believed to be the oldest Eastern black rhino in North America and the second oldest in the world.  Unfortunately, along with that advanced age, came a variety of ailments that had become increasingly debilitating over the last several months, according to Zoo Miami Communications Director Ron Magill. Though some of those ailments, such as severe arthritis, were being successfully treated with medications, as time wore on, the treatments became less and less effective.

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In recent weeks, Magill explained, Toshi had experienced a dramatic weight loss and lethargy which caused special concern in the Animal Health and Animal Science teams.  Many tests were done with hopes of determining the cause of the weight loss, however, no conclusive answers were found.

Toshi (Zoo Miami/Ron Magill)

After a great deal of discussion, the decision was made to immobilize Toshi last week so that more detailed and revealing tests could be done as a final effort to find answers and hopefully stop the serious decline in Toshi’s condition.  This decision was not made lightly because there was a very strong possibility that Toshi would not be able to recover from the immobilization.  Fortunately, he did wake up from the procedure but unfortunately, it did not reveal any single issue that could be responsible for his sudden decline.  For the next several days his condition was wavering until Thursday night when he was struggling to get up and it became obvious that his quality of life had diminished to the point where there was no hope of recovery and the incredibly difficult decision was made to euthanize him.

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Born in April of 1977 in Hiroshima, Japan, Toshi arrived at Zoo Miami (then Miami Metrozoo) in April of 1983 after an overseas journey by ship.  Though impressive and intimidating in size and strength, he was a gentle animal and made a huge contribution to preserving his highly endangered species by siring several offspring while at the zoo.

At the time of his death, he was a great-great grandfather.

Magill said, “There has never been a better ambassador for Zoo Miami than Toshi.”

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Over the years, he has met countless guests as part of special behind-the-scenes tours.  From children with life-threatening illnesses to celebrities like Shaquille O’Neal and Gloria Estefan, he has left an indelible impression as a gentle giant.  His loss leaves an immeasurable hole in the hearts of all who loved him.