Taronga Western Plains Zoo is the only Zoo in Australia to hold the Greater One-horned Rhinoceros. Dora our resident male was born in 1999 at Nagoya Zoo, Japan. He arrived at Taronga Western Plains Zoo at four years old. Dora was the only one of his kind at the Zoo until a female arrived six years later.
Amala our female was born in 2006 at Oklahoma Zoo, USA. She arrived here as a three year old, having been selected as the most suitable mate for Dora. However there was still a long way to go before we were able to start a breeding program as three year old Rhinos still have a lot of growing to do. Plus Dora weighed up to a whopping 1900kg, we had to wait for Amala to get bigger and bulkier, so she would be able to support his weight while mating.
Amala has now been here for three years, and with a combination of lots of good food and generally growth and development she has now reached the desired weight and size for breeding. This means that keepers are now able to focus on learning and recording her oestrus cycle. The Greater One-horned Rhinos are only receptive to breeding for about 8 hours, in a 45 days period, which means that keepers need to accurately predict the ideal time to put male and female together.
Being a solitary species, Dora and Amala are housed separately at all times, but they are able to see and smell each other most of the time. Recently, they have also been given fence contact, meaning that they can touch each other through a secure fence, enabling them to become more used to one another, so that when the day for breeding finally comes, they’ll know each other pretty well. Even so, keepers will have to be around to supervise the whole process, as this Rhino species can be quite aggressive towards each other during courtship and mating. This could mean standing around in the dark for up to 10 hours!
The gestation for a Greater One-horned Rhino is 15 months and if in the future Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s Greater One-horned Rhino breeding program is successful, it will be adding to the world’s population of these animals, which is currently less than 3,000.
Greater One-Horned Rhino Keeper, Sasha