Gordonton vet Andrew Gore had a fairly quiet day of it last Friday, pregnancy testing just over 400 Friesian cows. Oh, and two Southern White Rhinoceros.
For the last 12 or so years, Andrew, who co-runs Global Veterinary Services has added zoo work to his job description. He’s become even busier with clients from Hamilton Zoo recently, and invited N8N along while he pregnancy scanned two lady rhinos.
Looking like something from Back to the Future with his 3-D viewing headset, he said it wasn’t quite so easy the first time he did it.
“It was a little more tricky. If they get upset, they’ll let you know. Pregnancy testing rhinos is much more difficult than testing cattle, just because of the sheer size of them.”
He says some training would have been nice, but there was no one in New Zealand who had ever scanned a rhino.
“So, we had to basically make it up as we went along. It’s a lot easier now, and they are remarkably calm animals. We give them Lucerne hay, which they think is ice cream, and they’re quite happy to stand there, munching away while I do the examination.”
White rhinos are, generally, of a quieter temperament than the more commonly kept (in zoos) black rhinos, he says.
“They tame down incredibly quickly. From the wild to captivity, they can be hand feeding within a week, apparently.
“For safety reasons, zoo staff aren’t allowed to open the gates if a rhino is close to the gates, so they call to tell them to back off. The rhinos learn they won’t get fed unless they do. It doesn’t take long.”
Sam, the team leader, asks us to wait while she organises a rhino, and within minutes, 12-year-old Kito is in the restraining gates, waiting for her ice cream and examination. Meanwhile, Bunty her calf noses around the yard, probably wondering where his treat is.
While Andrew couldn’t see the developing baby, the good news is that Keddeh is definitely pregnant, and is due in another 13 months, making her 10 weeks pregnant now.
We leave while another lady rhino is wrangled into place, letting the experts get on with a good day’s work.
Click on photo to start slideshow.
- The gestation period for Southern White Rhinos is 16 months.
- They’ll live about 50 years in the wild, longer in captivity
- They were nearly extinct in the early 1900s, but are now a conservation success story. From less than 100 animals they now number over 18,000 in the wild.
- Hamilton Zoo has bred five of the eight white rhino born in New Zealand and are fund-raising to build an additional home for the herd. Click here to find out more.