Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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Behind the scenes at Black Rhino

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is home to 10 Black Rhinos and is internationally renowned for its breeding and conservation work with the critically endangered species. 

Over recent years, poaching of Rhinos has escalated, with a 5000% increase in the number of Rhinos killed between 2007 and 2012.  In 2013, it is estimated that between 800 and 1000 Rhinos will be killed in South Africa alone this year.  With the situation in the wild so uncertain, Taronga Western Plains Zoo believes that it is crucial the Zoo refines its knowledge and techniques of Black Rhino reproduction and maintains its historic breeding successes of the past.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s Black Rhino keepers along with the Zoo’s veterinary team have recently conducted a series of semen collection procedures with the Black Rhinos to ascertain reproductive viability and to provide a stockpile for the future, in the ‘frozen zoo’.  While the process is complicated and involves up to 16 staff, the procedures were very successful.  The semen collection will allow artificial techniques to be utilised in the future both here in Dubbo but also can be easily transported across the country and even the world.

Keepers have also been training the Black Rhino females to allow vets to take blood samples from them without having to anaesthetise the animal and also to accept a rectal ultrasound, which is important for artificial insemination programs. This training means that vets do not need to anaesthetise an animal for a procedure and therefore is less risk and stress for the animal.

This training is progressing well and already seeing positive results with one of the female Black Rhinos presenting their leg for blood samples to be retrieved and another two females getting closer to this point. 

By Black Rhino Keeper, Nick Hanlon