For over three years of observations, Sababu, a black rhinoceros at the San Antonio Zoo, suffered chronic diarrhea, weight loss, etc., before being euthanized in 2011

During our history of observations, Sababu was by far the most severe case we’ve dealt with. She was extremely emaciated, had chronic bowel issues, and various ulcerations across her body, all of which we have confirmed were present for years prior to our involvement.

This case will remain open until the questions of her death and that of Herbie are answered and medical records are released.

According to an inside informant, in 2008, a boy jumped into Sababu’s exhibit and wrote graffiti on her body. While this report is unconfirmed by further sources, there are multiple videos of zoo guests being able to reach down and easily touch her.

Major Issues



Antiquated Exhibit

Chronic Diarrhea

Lack of Shade


No Grass

No Mud Wallow


Proximity to Public

Improper Diety

Unsanitary Conditions

Contaminated Drinking Source

Cross Contamination of Food and Feces

Chronic, Swollen Ankles


Sababu was born at the Cincinnati Zoo on December 27, 1985, before being transferred to the San Antonio Zoo in 1987. Sababu has had three offspring with her mate, Herbie, her most recent being Henry. One World Conservation began observations of her in 2008, adding her to the top of our critical watch list. On February 7, 2011, after years of suffering, Sababu was euthanized. According to a senior staff veterinarian at the San Antonio Zoo, she had been suffering from an inflammatory bowel condition for 15 years.

There were several points in our observations where we didn’t think Sababu would make it: She would be so weak that she could barely hold herself up. Sababu should have been euthanized years before she was.

Her death is in the hands of the upper management at the San Antonio Zoo, not her keepers, who maintained the utmost care and compassion for her with the means they could.

Black Rhino Syndrome

Experts in the field in Zimbabwe could not identify the nature of Sababu’s ulcerations. It remained a mystery until 2009, when Sababu’s condition worsened. In researching her symptoms, we were able to identify an illness called “Black Rhino Syndrome.” We couldn’t confirm this until the discovery of her involvement in two studies involving research on Black Rhino Syndrome.

The San Antonio Zoo continues to display a lack of transparency and refuses to release any vet records, which we believe would confirm that Sababu had black rhino syndrome and that she should have been euthanized years prior to 2011.

According to studies, 50% of black rhinos in the United States are suffering from Black Rhino Syndrome, which has an extremely high mortality rate.

Our Involvement

  • We have filed numerous complaints with the USDA, OIG, USFW, WAZA, as well as congressional inquiries
  • Work with San Antonio City Council
  • Work with other government agencies
  • Documented observations
  • Called for the resignation of zoo director, Stephen McCusker
  • Attempted negotiations with the San Antonio Zoo
  • Took the case to Animal Control Services
  • Local and global awareness
  • Contacted numerous experts, including, Zimbabwean vets, Imire, and Save the Rhinos, among many others
  • Intensive genealogy research

R.I.P. Sababu

One World Conservation will not let Sababu’s suffering and memory disappear. We will continue to monitor her son, Henry, for signs of illness and make sure that he, or any other black rhinoceros, is never brought to the San Antonio Zoo until extreme renovations are made that will meet the needs of the species.