Cleveland Metroparks Zoo said goodbye to one of its biggest kids yesterday -- Eastern black rhinoceros Zuri was sent out on breeding loan to the Oregon Zoo in Portland.
Zuri was born at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in July 2007 to mother Inge and father Jimma. Zuri was Jimma's first offspring.
The transfer to Portland was recommended by the Black Rhino Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Species Survival Plans are cooperative breeding and management groups for endangered or threatened species including black rhinos, lowland gorillas, polar bears and African elephants.
Zuri will be paired with the Oregon Zoo's male black rhino, Pete, in hopes of producing offspring. The move leaves Cleveland with four rhinos, Inge, Jimma, Kibibi and Johari.
A veterinarian, a curator and the deputy director from the Oregon Zoo arrived in Cleveland on Monday, and accompanied Zuri all the way back to the Pacific Northwest.
So how does one move a 2,600 pound rhino thousands of miles across the country? The easy answer would be very carefully, but the truth is much more involved and the process started almost a year ago with special training.
Moving a rhino begins with a very strong animal crate. Keepers use positive reinforcement to condition the animal so it will be calm and confident in the crate during travel. The animal begins by spending a set amount of time in the crate every day. Keepers slowly increase the time the animal stays in the crate until it can calmly stay in there long enough to cover the travel time. Eventually the keepers will do test runs where they even stage unfamiliar noises outside the crate to desensitize the animal to sounds it might hear while on a truck or an airplane.
In Zuri's case, she was in the crate for less than a day. She flew first-class, for a rhino, aboard a FedEx cargo plane accompanied by animal care staff from the Oregon Zoo to take care of her.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with hours extended to 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission is $11 per person, $8 for kids ages 2 to 11 and free for children younger than 2 and Zoo members.