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Rare road trip for rhino


16 May 2007

Rare road trip for rhino

Motorists on the Southern Motorway today (16 May) may spot some unusual and heavy, cargo as Hamilton Zoo and Auckland Zoo transfer four white rhino between the two facilities – weighing over six tonne between them.

Three male southern white rhinos, Zambezi and his two sons Inkosi and Mtoto, will make the move from Hamilton to Auckland Zoo. In transit, they will pass Auckland’s southern white rhino male Kruger who is heading for new pastures at Hamilton Zoo.

Australasian stud-book keeper for southern white rhino and Hamilton Zoo mammals team leader Sam Kudeweh says the transfer is a positive move for the regional captive breeding programme of white rhino, enabling the extension of the genetic breeding pool.

“The captive southern white rhino population is carefully managed in Australasia to maximise the gene pool and ensure that we maintain appropriate populations with the space available. The transfer of male rhino offers Kruger an opportunity to breed for the first time, while enabling the exploration of new management options through the running of a bachelor herd at Auckland.”

In March, 15-year-old Zambezi became a father for the third time with the birth of daughter, Imani. Along with offspring Inkosi and Mtoto, this secures his bloodline for the next generation of rhino. Kruger, Hamilton Zoo’s newest addition, has to date not had the opportunity to breed. It is hoped that he will breed with some of the four female rhino at Hamilton, allowing the gene pool in the region to diversify.

Both Hamilton and Auckland zoos have been busy preparing for the transfer, with preparations and renovations ready for the respective new arrivals. The three Hamilton Zoo boys will join male Mandhla in Auckland to make up the region’s only ‘bachelor’ herd of white rhino. Their arrival will offer some new and stimulating experiences for all the rhino in the group. Mandhla, who is blind, will be exposed to new smells and will have a change in routine as the new arrivals settle in. Due to Mandhla’s blindness, he will be separated from the new group to ensure his safety.

While Mandhla adjusts to the newcomers, Zambezi, Inkosi and Mtoto will be checking out their new home. Although similar in size to Hamilton Zoo’s enclosure, the Auckland enclosure will offer some very new experiences. Zambezi and his sons will be able to see, hear and smell other animals (including zebra, ostrich, giraffe, lion and cheetah) for the very first time. They’ll also be sharing their space with six springbok.

In his new home at Hamilton Zoo, Kruger will join a bigger herd of four and will also be the only male in the Hamilton herd. Initially, Kruger will be kept separate from breeding female Caballe and her new calf Imani, but soon after his arrival he will be integrated with females Kito and Moesha.

As a result of a targeted breeding recovery programme in South Africa during the last century, there are now more than 11,000 southern white rhinos in the wild – a major conservation success story given that there were less than 20 of these animals left in the world at the beginning of the 1900s.

Australasian Species Management committee member and Hamilton Zoo director Stephen Standley says the transfer between Auckland and Hamilton zoos is working for the benefit of the southern white rhino species as a whole in Australasia.

“The transfer is an excellent example of Hamilton and Auckland zoos working together for the betterment of the southern white rhino species.” This sentiment is echoed by Auckland Zoo Director Glen Holland who sees this as an opportunity to assist the species and a zoo partner, but also to research a little understood piece in the international programme – the management techniques for a rhino bachelor herd.


Notes to the editor
Rhino at both zoos are expected to be on display by Thursday, 17 May although this is dependant on how well they settle. If you would like information about the logistics of moving rhino or images please contact us.

Additional breeding information
Australasian Species Management committee member and Hamilton Zoo director Stephen Standley says “In Australasia, we currently have a number of wild-caught southern white rhino and the aim of the species management programme is to gain offspring from all of them. Animals that are wild-caught are especially important to breed from in terms of preserving the gene pool. Kito, one of our female rhinos at Hamilton Zoo, was conceived in the wild and her mother was wild caught. Kito hasn’t yet had the opportunity to breed but with the arrival of Kruger from Auckland Zoo we have new possibilities in terms of the rhino breeding programme and mixing the gene pool in Hamilton which to date has been dominated by a bloodline emerging from Caballe and Zambezi.”

Auckland Zoo is an enterprise of Auckland City Council. It is home to the largest collection of native and exotic wildlife species in New Zealand (over 1900 animals and 200 species) and attracts over half a million visitors annually. It is becoming increasingly well known nationally and internationally through the award-winning television programme, 'The Zoo'. At the heart of all Auckland Zoo's work and activities is its mission: "to focus the Zoo’s resources to benefit conservation and provide exciting visitor experiences which inspire and empower people to take positive action for wildlife and the environment". Auckland Zoo is a member of both the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks & Aquaria (ARAZPA) and the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums (WAZA).

Hamilton Zoo is a Hamilton City Council facility and home to over 400 native New Zealand and exotic animals. Set in 25ha of tranquil surroundings, the zoo features impressive habitat-based enclosures, natural landscaped grounds and the largest free flight aviary in Australasia housing over 200 native and exotic species of birds and plants. Hamilton Zoo works to conserve wildlife in its natural environment and provides a recreational resource for local residents and visitors. Hamilton Zoo is a member of the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks & Aquaria (ARAZPA).

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