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.






Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.