Rhino protector Anna Merz dies

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JOHANNESBURG -- A game reserve in Kenya plans to hold a memorial service next month for Anna Merz, a conservationist who sought to protect the rhinoceros from systematic poaching that has severely depleted its numbers in Africa.

Merz died in a South African hospital on April 4 at the age of 83, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy said. It described her as a "visionary" who helped found the reserve, which has grown its rhino population despite increasing pressure from poachers that kill the animal for its horns.

Lewa holds more than 120 rhinos, constituting 11 percent and 14 percent of Kenya's black and white rhino populations respectively, according to the conservancy. In the 1980s, Merz and landowners David and Delia Craig founded the Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary, which later took the Lewa name.

Mike Watson, head of the conservancy near Mount Kenya, said in a statement this month that a memorial service will be held May 12 for Merz, author of "Rhino: At the Brink of Extinction." He said a rhino calf was born in the reserve on the day of her death.

Also, a female rhino calf that was born this month and is living at a South Florida drive-through safari park was named Anna after Merz's death. It is one of the biggest attractions at the park.

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