In the middle of August at the Cincinnati Zoo it is hot, uncomfortable, and difficult to stay cool. Unless, of course, you’re a rhino. Sumatran rhinos, Suci and Harapan, are built to tolerate this muggy, hot weather. At least, their ancestors have adapted to it. In the wild, Sumatran rhinos find relief from the heat in wallows that have filled with rain water. These pools also keep biting flies and insects from bothering them. The rhinos frequent these wallows and put their own personal touch or signature on them by rolling, digging the sides, and likely spraying urine on the trees and vegetation nearby. These behaviors tell other rhinos and animals in the area that this wallow already belongs to someone and to please leave it the way they found it. Here in Cincinnati, Suci and Harapan also have their wallows and they put them to good (and frequent) use. It’s our jobs as keepers to keep the wallows, and all exhibit areas (inside and out), fresh and clean. Yes, clean mud is difficult to attain but necessary. We do this by adding fresh water daily and periodically adding fresh soil. In the wild fresh rain water is added almost daily and during the dry season a rhino will move on to another wallow near or closely adjacent to a stream.
Harapan, the handsome young stud born here in April of 2007, and who has spent some time in Florida and San Diego California over the years, returned here on July 3, 2013. His behavior indicates he is happy to be home. Most days he eats his first meal of ficus browse ( tree cuttings) and fruits and vegetables and then he saunters over to the wallow to get himself good and muddy. The unique part of his behavior is that he then goes into his pool for a quick rinse. Next he wanders inside and checks up on the keepers to see how our day is going. Then, repeats all the steps over again. People often ask zoo keepers if the animals “ know you “ or know they are back home. After this experience, I can honestly say Yes. Harapan is without a doubt happy to be here and we are happy to have him home.
‘ Till next time- Paul Reinhart, Cincinnati Zoo Ungulate dept.