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Zoo Mourns Last Of An Era

Todd PittengerJune 21, 2022

Rolling Hills Zoo is mourning the loss of an original member of its animal family.

According to the zoo, their male southern white rhino Uzazi has passed away. Uzazi was the last of the original rhinos that arrived at RHZ in 1995.

The zoo says at 30 years old, Uzazi began developing age related issues which were not responding to treatment. Animal care staff and veterinarian have been monitoring his health for the past several months, but sadly his quality of life was declining rapidly.  It was decided that humanly euthanizing him was the kindest option available.

Born on November 20, 1991 at San Diego Wild Animal Park (SD-WAP), Uzazi moved to Salina, Kansas in 1995 and was one of the first animals to call RHZ home.

“Of the original group of rhinos, Uzazi was the youngest, and one of his favorite things to do was smash boxes, sweet potatoes, bags, and even an occasional pumpkin,” shared Devney Bowen, RHZ Head Keeper.   “He also loved to manipulate things, so we created enrichment to encourage those natural behaviors. One of his favorites was a PVC shaker filled with pellets or scent. Once he had the shaker he would move it with his horn to get the pellets to fall out or release the scent of the female rhinos. Uzazi was very intelligent. When working on hoof care he learned to lie on his side and present all four feet straight out for inspection and trimming.  He also learned to open his mouth so we could look inside, and would hold this position for favorite treats.”

“Uzazi has been very gentle and loving,” shared Vickie Musselman, RHZ Register. “He always enjoyed lots of attention from keepers, staff and visitors, including being talked to, touched and brushed.  He especially loved his baths, most days standing directly in front of the hose with his rear to you while you were cleaning, pretty much making you give him a light shower.”

“He was the sweetest, most gentle boy, always in good spirits, and never met a stranger,” commented Laura Mason, RHZ Hoofstock Keeper.  “When I decided I wanted to work with animals my goal was to work with rhinos, and Uzazi was the first rhino I fell in love with. His calm eyes and gentle demeanor meant everyone who met him instantly saw the depth of these incredible creatures.  Uzazi also loved a party, and he would stroll out into his yard and check out each box before starting to eat his treats. Usually about halfway through he would realize he had barrels or boxes to smash and mosey over to do so. Though he never moved fast, he could often be seen strolling along the yard grazing or rubbing his horn on anything hard he could find. He will leave a big gap in all of our hearts and the barn will never be the same without our ‘old man’.”

“While I’ve worked in or around zoos for over 20 years, Uzazi was the first rhino I spent any time around,” stated Ryan VanZant, RHZ Executive Director.  “He certainly touched the heart and ignited passion for me and my family as I’m sure he did with all of those who met him.  There is little doubt that his life led to many thousands of small actions all contributing toward saving his species all around the world.”

Copyright © Meridian Media, 2022. All Rights Reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced without Meridian Media’s express consent.

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