Rolling Hills Zoo is getting ready to say goodbye to one of its rhinos.
According to the zoo, its southern white rhinoceros, Milton, is being transferred on June 1st to Glady’s Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas as part of the Zoo’s participation in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan’s breeding program.
Milton came to Rolling Hills Zoo in 1996 from The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio, when he was 16 years old. Up to that time Milton had not produced offspring. “It was always hoped that Milton, one of the original residents of Rolling Hills Zoo, would father offspring. However, our female rhinos are past breeding age, so now the SSP hopes to have him reproduce elsewhere to contribute his valuable genetics to the white rhino population,” commented Brenda Gunder, RHZ Curator.
The American Species Survival Plan or SSP program was developed in 1981 by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to help ensure the survival of selected species populations within AZA accredited zoos and aquariums, most of which are threatened or endangered in the wild. The SSP’s Breeding and Transfer Plan identifies species population management goals and recommendations to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically varied AZA species population.
Currently, Rolling Hills Zoo has two female southern white rhinos who are older and past their breeding cycle and could be put at risk if they were bred. “While they are not able to breed any longer, we do accept responsibility for maintaining our older population of female southern white rhinos,” shared Robert Jenkins, Director of Rolling Hills Zoo. “We will also eventually be looking at replacing Milton at Rolling Hills Zoo.”
Manny Martel, RHZ Keeper, has worked with Milton and the rest of the rhino population since the Zoo’s conception. Manny says that Milton is a big guy who is a classic dominate male. “He has been fun to work with and we have built a mutual trust,” commented Martel. “Once we build up his confidence and he knows what we want, he is very nice to work with, plus he likes repetition. In working with Milton, you work with love and a cool head. I enjoy the challenge he presents to do new things and what we can accomplish together – it gives you a good feeling.”
The timing on this relocation is due to the weather as rhinos need to be kept cool but not cold. Therefore neither winter nor summer are ideal. “Milton needed to be moved during the cooler spring weather which we are experiencing right now,” shared Gunder. “We have also been working with him to voluntarily enter his transport crate by giving him scratches and alfalfa pellets (a favorite!).”