Rhino Introductions

Some of you may have noticed that the area around the rhinos has been blocked off lately and wondered what was going on. Well, we’ve been introducing our rhinos to each other and the less people around watching, the better. They’re very nervous about meeting each other. Try to imagine 100 people watching you on a first date... Probably wouldn't be your idea of a good first impression.

Rhino Intro at Potter Park Zoo

The introductions themselves are difficult situations. We try to be in the best positions possible to assist when a rhino is in need. That being said, it’s kind of hard to convince a 2600 pound dude that he needs to back off and give the girl he has obsessed over a break. Typically the rhinos meet in the larger of the two yards and have access to our off exhibit yard and the entire building. This allows us to create a loop for the rhinos to run through and a chance to separate them if needed. To aid us in the separation process we have fire extinguishers that give a cold blast of air to distract the rhinos. While they are distracted, a door shuts between the rhinos and gives them a break when they need it.

The introductions have mostly followed the same basic routine. Doppsee (our female) stands at the front of the exhibit and stares Jello (our male) down. Jello being the girl-crazed teenager he is doesn't really get the hint and tries to creep closer. When he gets too close for comfort, Doppsee will give a loud roar and bluff charge or give him a swipe of her horn. Jello is generally undeterred. He continuously approaches with the same results. I like to compare him to the old Pepe Le Pew cartoons. No matter how badly he gets shot down, Jello just keeps slowly making his way towards her, completely convinced that she will love him eventually. Sometimes after repeated failed attempts, Jello gets frustrated and will charge back, and they’ll spar by crashing their horns together. This is quite typical for rhino intros.

Black Rhino Introductions at Potter Park Zoo

Overall the introductions have gone alright but have not progressed as quickly as we would’ve liked. If there is one thing that I’ve learned from working with animals, it’s that patience is a must. There is no way we can make two rhinos get along. The goal for this is that they’ll be more comfortable together when she is ready to breed. Doppsee is turning 5 this summer and that’s at the early end of breeding. We have no need to rush anything. Thanks for being understanding as we try to play rhino matchmaker - and just think - if this is successful, it’s only 15 short months until a baby would be born...