SOUTH BEND — The Potawatomi Zoo announced Wednesday that a male southern white rhinoceros arrived at the zoo at the beginning of October. He now has regular access to his new habitat between the okapi and Sichuan takin as well as his indoor space behind the scenes. He will be out in the public view as weather allows and as he chooses.
The 3-year-old southern white rhino named Masamba came from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. After he arrived, the Animal Care staff took several days to help him acclimate to his new surroundings and routine before he was given access to his habitat, officials said. He will still move between the two spaces as he chooses to help him feel comfortable in his new home.
“Having a rhinoceros at the Potawatomi Zoo is a major accomplishment and shows how much the zoo has evolved into a modern conservation and education facility,” said Josh Sisk, executive director of the Potawatomi Zoo. “As an ambassador for his species, Masamba will help educate visitors about rhino conservation and the ecosystem they call home.”
This move came from a recommendation by the Southern White Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan, a program that oversees population management of specific species within Association of Zoos and Aquariums member institutions and to enhance conservation of each species in the wild.
At the beginning of the 20th century, it was estimated that over 500,000 rhinos of all species lived throughout the world. Today there are fewer than 30,000 wild rhinos across five subspecies in Africa and Asia.
Through conservation efforts, southern white rhinos have gone from being critically endangered to the least endangered rhino species in the wild. However, continued conservation of white rhinos, or any megafauna species, is critical to the protection of a vast and varied ecosystem, the zoo said.
Because poaching and habitat loss are the biggest threat to rhinos around the world, cooperative preservation efforts between zoos, conservation organizations, and governments in the rhinos’ native regions are essential to save this species, according to the zoo. These groups work together to monitor population trends, protect individual herds, and responsibly care for and breed animals in human care to maintain genetically diverse bloodlines with the hope of reintroducing rhinos to their native habitats.
By housing a male southern white rhino, the Potawatomi Zoo is playing a part in rhino conservation. It frees up space for other zoos to continue rhino breeding programs and artificial insemination research. It also allows visitors the opportunity to experience a rhinoceros in person, learn about the importance of rhinos in the wild, and be inspired to share their experience with others, the organization said.