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RHINO MANAGEMENT

The IRKA recommended husbandry practices for all five species.

 

BLACK RHINOCEROS

The black or hook-lipped rhino was first exhibited in captivity in Roman times. In the modern era the London Zoo was the first to exhibit it in 1868. It’s large size, inaccessible habitat, and overall demeanor (not easily tamed) probably contributed to its lack of representation. Since the 1930’s black rhinos have become more prevalent in captivity, and at present over 200 reside in zoos or parks. The black rhino has suffered true decimation since the 1960’s, making this captive population all the more important. Less that 5,000 remain in the wild.

 

HOUSING

As with all rhinos housing facilities must be large enough to allow these rhinos plenty of room for exercise. These rhinos can be quite active, running the length of their exhibit. Depending on the climate, an inside exercise area is needed for the winter months along with heated rooms. The enclosure must have adequate shade, a mud wallow, and outdoor enrichment items. Training chutes are used for blood collection, foot exams, and ultrasounds. Walk on scales are helpful in observing weight changes in these rhinos, which could indicate a health problem.

NUTRITION

Successful captive management of black rhinos should include fresh browse daily. This is an important source of natural vitamin E, which is known to be commonly deficient in captive black rhinos. Many zoos supplement their rhinos with a powdered form of this vitamin. Additionally grass hays, herbivore pellets, and fresh produce are served. Most of the produce is used for training proposes.

KEEPER INVOLVEMENT

As with all animals, the daily keeper is the most important link to a healthy rhino. Most captive black rhinos need to be acclimated to hands on exams, which requires the keeper to be familiar with training exercises. Cracks in the hoof pads are not uncommon, and will require special care. Keepers often facilitate this treatment without veterinary assistance. The veterinary staff usually does blood collection and ultrasounds, but keeper training is what makes the process easier. Accurate record keeping is a must because it establishes patterns, which will indicate both health problems and estrus cycles in females. Estrus cycles are 26 days, on average and are often aggressive. The male may “chase” the female for quite a time before the female settles down and allows the male to mount her. She may also battle with him, resulting in wounds. Extreme care should be used when pairing rhinos, especially in smaller areas. The ability to separate the rhinos is a must.

ENRICHMENT

Enrichment is an important part of the care and maintenance of black rhinos. These rhinos benefit from having play items, as most captive animals do. Another form of enrichment is allowing the public to get close to these rhinos. In spite of their reputation, when properly trained they can be tamed for many behaviors. This facilitates up close visits by zoo-goers, encouraging a better understanding of these and other rhinos.

WHITE RHINOCEROS

There are two subspecies of white rhino in the wild and captivity. Many institution house southern white rhinos, while only two institutions house 10 captive northern white rhinos. In the wild the northern white rhino is found only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where between 2 and 5 individuals remain. The southern white rhino is the most common in captivity and in the wild. Their numbers in the wild are about 20,000 and they are found in various reserves and national parks in southern Africa. Even though southern white rhinos are the most common in captivity, zoological institutions are not always successful at breeding them.

 

HOUSING

White rhinos reproduce more successfully when housed in a herd, and only a few institutions can house a herd of rhinos. Very few institutions have successfully propagated a pair of whites. The northern white rhinos are even less successful at reproducing in captivity, with only 1 calf born in the last 10 years. Males can be housed alone but prefer to be housed with at least one female. Females are housed with at least one other female if no male is present, depending on the size of the enclosure. White rhinos live well in a variety of climates in captivity. In cooler climates a heated barn with room enough for exercising is needed. Floors can be of concrete but if they don’t have access to natural substrate for long periods, dirt, rubber mats, or hay can be put on top of the concrete to offer them a softer place to lay down. This species does not commonly have foot problems, though some institutions do file their nails down if the individual doesn’t walk around much. White rhinos handle hotter climates well, but do need access to a mud wallow to protect their skin from sunburn and insects. White rhinos don’t swim so pools are not necessary and can sometimes be a hazard if they are deep. As with all species of rhinos, training chutes are used for medical procedures.

NUTRITION

White rhinoceros are grazers in the wild, so their diet in institutions usually consists of grass hay, hay pellet, and herbivore pellets, which are widely used. Their diet can be supplemented by alfalfa hay, produce and fresh browse

KEEPER INVOLVEMENT

With all rhinos the daily keeper is the most important link to any healthy rhino. Most captive white rhinos can be acclimated to hands on exams very easily and in some cases are handled in a free contact situation. Training programs help to make daily care easier and help to make veterinary procedures such as blood draws and ultrasounds less stressful on rhinos and keepers. Training can also help with keepers’ daily observation and basic daily care. If medicating becomes necessary, training and a strong keeper rhino relationship can be key in a quick and successful recovery. Accurate record keeping is a must because it establishes patterns, which will indicate both health problems and estrus cycles in females. Extreme care should be used when pairing new rhinos, especially in smaller areas. The ability to separate the rhinos is a must when introducing, it is also beneficial for rhino that have been housed together for years

ENRICHMENT

All animals can benefit from having physical and mental stimuli, and enjoy play things. This can be large logs or fallen tree to push around, scents to change the smell of their environment or more toy-like items such as balls or puzzle feeders. Keepers and the public can also be a good source of enrichment through training and monitored public animal encounters. Most white rhinos enjoy interacting with the public as long as a good scratching is involved

JAVAN RHINOCEROS

The Javan rhinoceros has rarely been exhibited in captivity. Only 22 specimens have been recoded since the 17th century, only 2 of those since the 1900’s. Only 4 of those animals lived for over 10 years. The majority of the rest lived only a short time after capture. Originally Javan rhinoceros lived from the Ganges delta in Bangladesh, east through Myanmar and Thailand to Indochina, and south through Malaysia to the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java. Today only two populations remain. The Cat Loc Reserve in Viet Nam has between 7 and 9 animals, and the Ujung Kulon National Park of western Java houses an estimated <40 rhinoceros. Because of their tenuous existence in captivity, there are no plans to house these rhinos in zoos in the near future.

 

HOUSING

Historically this rhino has lived in remote rainforests and inaccessible areas. In spite of this man has managed to decimate the population to its current status of less than 50. Even the keepers in the Ujung Kulon reserve seldom see their charges. As a result it is difficult to do an accurate census.

NUTRITION

There is no information about captive diets, though being browsers it is assumed they have a similar diet to Greater One Horned rhinoceros.

KEEPER INVOLVEMENT

These rhinos are browsing rhinos, like the Indian and black rhino. They are known to eat the local flora in their habitat, and historical records have shown that they were fed browse in their captive environments too. A male that lived in the Adelaide Zoo, South Australia from 1886-1907 died with it’s teeth so worn it could not masticate. Along with browse, this animal was fed bran mush and similarly soft foods. This male was believed to be only 12 years old when it died. If it was that young when it died, then surely diet may have contributed to its early death

ENRICHMENT

The small population in Viet Nam is seldom seen by its keepers, as is the Ujung Kulon population. When sighted it is usually by remote control photography. At this point in time no immediate intervention to interact with these animals has been established.

SUMATRAN RHINOCEROS

Successful care of captive Sumatran rhinos has been a challenge to the zoological industry. Less than 100 of these rhinos remain in the wild. Only 2 facilities in the United Stated have housed Sumatran rhinos, (Cincinnati Zoo and White Oak Conservation Center) and only the Cincinnati Zoo has had a successful breeding pair. There are none currently in North America.

 

HOUSING

Housing facilities must be large enough to allow each rhino to have it’s own yard for exercise. Depending on the climate, an inside exercise area is needed for the winter months along with heated rooms. Concrete floors and stalls should be lined with rubber mats. Only mothers and their offspring are housed together for long term. Males and females are only brought together for mating. 
The enclosure must have adequate shade, a mud wallow, outdoor enrichment items and preferably a pool. These rhinos are susceptible to foot and skin problems so moisture is a must. Training chutes for blood collection, eye and foot exams, and ultrasounds are necessary. A walk-on scale is also needed to weigh the rhino daily to help monitor its health

NUTRITION

Successful captive management of Sumatran rhinos requires large amounts of fresh ficus (browse) to be served twice daily. Additionally alfalfa/grass hays, herbivore pellets, and fresh produce (preferably native species) are served. Most of the produce is used for training proposes.

KEEPER INVOLVEMENT

The daily keeper is the most important link to a healthy Sumatran rhino. These rhinos need to be acclimated to hands on exams, which requires the keeper to be familiar with training exercises. Daily weights and food consumption observations indicate overall health. Additionally, training for eye exams can lead to early detection of eye ulcerations. Foot care may be necessary if cracks in the hoof pads develop. The veterinary staff usually does blood collection and ultrasounds, but keeper training is what facilitates the process. Accurate record keeping is a must because it establishes patterns, which will indicate both health problems and estrus cycles in females.

ENRICHMENT

Sumatran rhinos enjoy enrichment as do other rhino species. These rhinos benefit from having enrichment items, as most captive animals do. Enrichment can even come in the form of shade trees. Using feed species of trees such as mulberry or Chinese elm provides not only necessary shade, but also an afternoon snack when leaves and berries fall from the trees. Another form of rhino enrichment is the training session with their keeper, leading to an overall positive captive environment.

GREATER ONE HORNED RHINOCEROS

Currently, just over 3,000 of these rhinos remain in the wild, most on scattered game preserves in India and Nepal. Care of captive Indian rhinos has been taking place in zoos since the 16th century. Many zoological institutions house these rhinos, but not all are successful at propagating them. For a zoological institution to be successful several measures must be followed.

 

HOUSING

Housing facilities must be large enough to allow the rhinos plenty of room for exercise. These rhinos can be social, and depending on the size of the enclosure several can be kept together at one time. (The San Diego Wild Animal Park has housed as many as 16 rhinos in a 43-acre multi-species exhibit). Depending on the climate, an inside exercise area is needed for the winter months along with heated rooms. Concrete floors should be covered with decomposed granite (DG), or another dirt type substrate. This is to help alleviate foot problems which are common is these rhinos. If DG is not available then stalls should be lined with rubber mats or hay. The enclosure must have adequate shade, a mud wallow, outdoor enrichment items and preferably a pool. Like Sumatran rhinos, Indian rhinos are susceptible to foot and skin problems so moisture is a must. Lounging under water with just their noses sticking out is a common practice of these rhinos. Training chutes are used for blood collection, foot exams, and ultrasounds.

NUTRITION

Successful captive management of Indian rhinos should include fresh browse daily. Additionally alfalfa/grass hays, herbivore pellets, and fresh produce are served. Most of the produce is used for training proposes.

KEEPER INVOLVEMENT

The daily keeper is the most important link to any healthy rhino. Most captive Indian rhinos need to be acclimated to hands on exams, which requires the keeper to be familiar with training exercises. Cracks in the hoof pads are not uncommon, and will require special care. Keepers often facilitate this treatment without veterinary staff. The veterinary staff usually does blood collection and ultrasounds, but keeper training is what makes the process easier. Accurate record keeping is a must because it establishes patterns, which will indicate both health problems and estrus cycles in females. Estrus cycles are very involved and sometimes aggressive. Extreme care should be used when pairing rhinos, especially in smaller areas. The ability to separate the rhinos is a must.

ENRICHMENT

Daily enrichment of Indian rhinos is not much different than that of other rhino species. These rhinos benefit from having play items, such as heavy boomer balls to push around. Enrichment can also come in the form of shade trees which double as a food source. Another form of enrichment is allowing the public to get close to these rhinos. Their temperament can be quite docile at times, making them candidates for an up close visit on a behind-the-scenes tour.

 

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