News Release
Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351,
October 18, 2018
Black Rhino at Brookfield Zoo Celebrates 8th Birthday
Following a Year of Lifesaving Procedures


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     Brookfield, Ill. – Today, October 18, the Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) celebrated a special birthday for Layla, an 8-year-old eastern black rhinoceros at Brookfield Zoo. Some may not consider this a significant birthday, but for this 2,300-pound rhino, it is an important milestone. Last December, the zoo’s veterinarians diagnosed Layla with a life-threatening, obstructive sinusitis that was blocking her ability to breathe. Since January 2018, Layla has undergone two dozen medical procedures and staged surgeries to treat the problem.

It took Layla a while to make her entrance. In fact, by the time she came out later in the day, only a few zoo staff and guests were there to see Layla enjoy her birthday cake prepared especially for her. The nutritious cake featured a variety of fruits and vegetables frozen in flavored ice blocks, decorated with leafy greens, and topped with a watermelon and carrot that served as a candle. In addition, the zoo’s animal care and veterinary staff had their own party with birthday cake and party hats to honor Layla and to celebrate how well she is doing.

Without the advanced medical care available at Brookfield Zoo, Layla would not have reached her 8th birthday. Veterinary staff diagnosed an obstruction in Layla’s nasal sinuses in December 2017 after animal care staff observed her having difficulty breathing. Rhinos are obligate nasal breathers, meaning it is difficult for them to breathe comfortably through their mouth for long periods. Any obstruction in their nasal passages can therefore become life threatening. To save Layla, veterinarians performed a bilateral sinusotomy surgery in January to provide direct access into her sinuses in hopes of treating the problem. In April, veterinarians performed the first-ever CT scan on an adult rhinoceros to fully characterize the obstruction and develop plans for treatment. This CT scan revealed an impacted, un-erupted molar (similar to an impacted wisdom tooth in a person). The tooth was infected and had triggered an inflammatory reaction, in which Layla’s body tried to control the problem by growing exuberant, abnormal tissue that ultimately blocked her airway. Since diagnosis, veterinarians have staged several surgeries to gradually debulk, or remove, the abnormal tissue and impacted tooth, and thus open up Layla’s airway. Veterinarians performed a second CT scan on Layla in May to further guide treatment.

In early August, veterinarians had a breakthrough when they were successfully able to deploy a silicone stent into a surgically created opening in Layla’s right nasal passage. The stent holds the nasal passage open to allow for normal airflow, while preventing any further growth of inflamed tissue. With the right side stented open and Layla breathing more comfortably, veterinarians were able to focus their efforts on surgically opening up the more severely affected left passageway, where the problem originated. In mid-August, the team had another major breakthrough and successfully deployed a stent into her left side, allowing her to breathe comfortably from both nostrils.

“Layla’s medical care has been a significant challenge given her size and the associated difficulty of accessing the primary problem deep inside of her thick skull. Her well-being has been our primary focus and concern over the past year. Our veterinarians have worked closely with our animal care staff to ensure Layla was comfortable and tolerating the repeated anesthesia and surgical procedures,” said Dr. Michael Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine for the Chicago Zoological Society.

Several consulting veterinarians and companies volunteered their staff’s time and donated equipment to assist on Layla’s case throughout the year. Adkesson added, “We are very grateful and appreciative to those who have worked closely with our dedicated staff in doing everything possible to help Layla and give her the best chance of celebrating many more birthdays.”
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About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by engaging people and communities with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located at 8400 31stStreet in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit


Sondra Katzen
Media Relations Manager
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


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