Raging For Rhinos
As grey clashes with brown, the earth moves. One after another, like a steady drum beating to a rhythmic chant, prints the size of a melon are etched into the earth’s canvas. Slowly, water trickles in, filling the divots to the brim. With each heavy step, there is a strong inhale followed by a deep release – life swirls into the grey cavities and out into the wild.
Rhinos are the second largest land mammals to walk the face of the earth. There are five different species of rhinos living on the continents of Africa and Asia. Two out of the five species of rhino, the black rhinoceros and the white rhinoceros, live in the wilds of Africa, while the three other species, the Javan rhino, the greater one-horned rhino, and the Sumatran rhino, are found living in Asia. Today, most of the rhino population exists within human care at protected national parks and reserves.
With poaching and habitat loss being the main threats to rhino populations, wildlife conservationists and law enforcement agencies are fighting to ensure the survival of these species. In March, the world received the tragic news that the last male Northern white rhino had died, leaving many to question if there is still hope for other rhino species.
Across the country, organizations like Reid Park Zoo are working to protect rhinos through a variety of different conservation programs. By partnering with the Tarangire Elephant Project, Reid Park Zoo has a direct role in the protection of rhinos. Although the primary objective of the project is to ensure the long-term conservation of African elephants, one of the main focuses of the project is to protect wildlife migration routes outside of national parks and refuges. By safeguarding these routes, elephants (as well as rhinos) are guarded against poachers.
Another way that Reid Park Zoo and zoos across the country are helping rhinos is by the use of a Species Survival Plan (SSP), which was developed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), to help zoos and aquariums work together to do what’s best for an entire species. One of the responsibilities of the SSP program is to determine which animals are good breeding matches – even if the animals are from different zoos.
If an animal population gets to be too small, an organization can use data collected from the SSP program to determine which animals are a good breeding match. Reid Park Zoo’s male Southern white rhino, Fireball, has sired 10 calves at The Wilds, a safari park in Ohio. In the future, Fireball might be considered as a breeding match for other female rhinos living in human care. The other rhino at Reid Park Zoo, Yebonga, is one of the oldest female rhinos in the country and is doing well for her geriatric age thanks to the great care provided by her keepers.
Through these programs, zoos and other conservation organizations are keeping a close eye on rhinos and all endangered animal species. By helping educate the public on the issues that these animals are facing in the wild, staff at Reid Park Zoo trust that their knowledge will inspire and lead the next generation to make a change in the lives of rhinos and all animals on this planet.
By supporting conservation programs such as the Tarangire Elephant Project, you too can make an immediate impact on the protection of rhinos.