People often ask
if I prefer to work with white or black rhinos more.
The answer I usually give them, in reference to my
translocations, is that black rhino are more fun, but
white rhino provide a much greater sense of
accomplishment. Having worked with black and white
rhino in a zoo, I thought white rhino would be much
easier to handle for a 2-3 month period during a
translocation. I could not have been more wrong.
White rhino in zoos are
often considered to be as docile as cattle. Some zoos allow their
keepers to work with their white rhinos in free contact, or without
a barrier of some kind between them. This is rare, but most keepers
are more likely to take a chance with a white rhino than they are
with a black rhino. Over an extended period of time (years), white
rhino tame down more than black rhino do.
This is not he case when
white rhino are first caught from the wild. They are generally very
nervous and will often refuse to eat. I have heard of white rhino
going ten days without eating before they were release back into the
wild. Putting two white rhinos in the same enclosure will sometimes
help, but I have seen a rhino stand and watch her bomamate eat two
bales of hay a day without even sniffing at the food. These
extended periods of anorexia can then lead to constipation. While I
will often hand feed black rhinos within a week or two of their time
in captivity, it might closer to a month before I can rub, scratch,
or feed a white rhino.
With enough space, food,
mud, friends and a place to rub/scratch, white rhino can do well in
captivity. Like black rhino, certain individuals adapt more readily
to life in captivity than others. Since white rhino are often found
in social groups, they are often housed together in captivity,
benefitting not only the rhinos, but also making it easier on zoos
with limited housing availability.