World Rhino Day, September 22, is fast approaching. But for some us, every day is rhino day! As a keeper, I have the opportunity to care for 9 greater one-horned rhinos (GOHR) and 11 southern white rhinos (SWR). They may look like “armored boulders,” but believe me, each one has its own unique personality and traits. Read on, and I’ll give you a sense of what it’s like working among these gentle giants—stories like these are too good to keep to myself!
One of my favorite memories I have is of Asha, a GOHR and her calf Carole. Asha, in Hindi means hope or life. And our rambunctious 7-year-old , Asha is certainly a life force. She is full of energy and is one of our most spirited GOHRs. I’ll be truthful and say that Asha would have to be my favorite rhino, I mean the name Asha is just so beautiful… 😉
One of Asha’s favorite activities on a warm afternoon is wallowing . Wallowing is a natural behavior that many animals do, it is the act of rolling or lying relaxed in water or mud. There are many beneficial factors to it; spreading the animal’s scent, playing, and mud makes a good sunscreen and insect repellent.
Once Asha starts wallowing it can be extremely difficult to get her out of the water for anything else. One day while Asha was enjoying a wallow, I wanted to give her a special food enrichment item, a rhino-friendly popsicle! Of course, it had to be rhino-sized, so it contained whole apples, bananas, carrots and sweet potatoes. I wasn’t sure if this would be enough to tempt her out of the water on a warm day, but I was determined to give her this tasty treat. I placed the popsicle on the grass and watched her eyes get wider than I’d ever seen.
To my surprise, Asha ran out of the water and right up to the treat—she was in paradise!
Her calf, Carole born on June 22, 2018 even joined in on the fun! Seeing them play with and eat this popsicle was just as fun for myself as it was for them!
Carole is the most curious out of our three GOHR calves and is just as playful as her mother, Asha. Seeing her chase around her mother and fellow exhibit-mates is a marvel to witness.
Though this is a short story on how one day went with our GOHRs there are hundreds more stories and fun facts I could share with you all. Having the motivation and dedication to learn more about our rhino species is life-changing, for us and most importantly, the rhinos themselves! Conservation is key in making a difference. Be sure to join us here at Safari Park to see Asha and Carole in person!
Asha Natividad is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.