You may think that after the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo’s “A Wild Affair” things start to settle down at the zoo, but when you work with wildlife, there’s always something to celebrate!
We throw parties and events the whole year round. On Sept. 22, we’ll be celebrating World Rhino Day from 2 to 4 p.m.. Help us cheer for all five species of rhino at our event by participating in family-friendly, rhino-themed activities or take the opportunity to meet one of our rhinos up close in a staff-guided encounter from 2:30 to 3 p.m. Animal care staff will be on hand for a keeper chat starting at 3 p.m. to discuss the ins and outs of working with rhinos.
World Rhino Day was first announced by the World Wildlife Foundation – South Africa in 2010. The event grew into an international success, bringing light to both African and Asian species of rhinos. The African species of rhino are the white and black rhino. Lee Richardson Zoo is home to a pair of black rhinos, male Jabari, and female Johari.
White rhinos are known for their wide mouths that allow grazing from short grasses and for being the larger of the African species. Black rhinos are a bit smaller and have prehensile lips that allow them to reach browse (branches or shrubs). Asian species of rhino include the greater one-horned rhino, the Sumatran rhino, and the Javan rhino.
As all five species of rhino are facing ever-increasing dangers in the wild, the theme for World Rhino Day continues to be “Five rhino species forever”.
The main threat to rhino populations is poaching for their horn. This illegal hunting is done for two reasons, as medicine and ornamental use. Rhino horn is worth more than its weight in gold, even though it is made of keratin, the same protein that is in our hair and fingernails. This cost is driven by the belief that powdered horn can be used to cure everything from a hangover to cancer. Although there is no proof to back any of these claims, in 2008, a rumor was spread in Vietnam that rhino horn had cured a former politician’s cancer, causing the price of rhino horn to reach almost $60,000 a kilogram.
Due to the high value, poachers have increased their hunts, causing rhino populations to drop drastically in both Asia and Africa.
The world is losing its rhinos. The last remaining Javan rhino in Vietnam was poached in 2010, killed in its home in Cat Tien National Park. In March of this year, in Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino died. He lived to an old age of 45 thanks to the armed guards who protected him 24 hours a day.
There are only around 5,000 black rhinos surviving in the wild. Greater one-horned rhino populations have declined to 3,550 wild individuals. There are less than 80 Sumatran rhinos in the wild. Javan rhinos are down to less than 67 individuals.
Once common across southern Africa, white rhinos were thought to be extinct in the late 19th century. However, about 100 were discovered. After more than a century of protection and conservation management, there are now over 20,000 Southern white rhinos living in protected areas and private reserves.
So how do we help the rhinos of the world? We share their story and support the organizations that are working to increase population numbers and expand protected areas.
By visiting black rhinos Johari and Jabari at LRZ, you are supporting a Species Survival Plan put in place by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to help ensure a future for black rhinos. The World Wildlife Foundation also is working to protect rhinos by supporting anti-poaching units and improving local and international laws to help stop the illegal trade of rhino horn. Another organization working towards ending poaching and loss of rhino habitat is Save the Rhino. Find out more by visiting their websites at www.wwf.org and www.savetherhino.org.
You can check out our mission and get information about rhinos and Species Survival Plans on our website at www.leerichardsonzoo.org. Or see it all in action and visit the zoo Sept. 22 as we celebrate World Rhino Day and help spread the word about five rhino species forever!
Emily Sexson is an education specialist at Lee Richardson Zoo.