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Category — Black Rhino

Meet Seyia: Our Newest Black Rhino

Meet Seyia (Photo: Michelle Curley)

Meet Seyia (Photo: Michelle Curley)

Seyia arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in August of 2013 and is currently the only black rhino we have here. She made the long journey all the way from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she was born. Seyia will celebrate her fifth birthday on September 28.

The black rhino, or hook-lipped rhino (Diceros bicornis), is native to eastern and central Africa.  Black rhinos are generally solitary animals, except for mothers with calves. However, males and females have a consort relationship during mating, and sometimes young adults will form loose associations with older individuals of either sex.

An herbivorous browser, black rhinos eat leafy plants, branches, shoots, thorny bushes and fruit.  You will often see browse, or large leafy branches, in Seyia’s exhibit, which is one of her favorite things. She also loves bananas, apples, kiwi and melon.  We often utilize these items for her training sessions and as enrichment scattered throughout her enclosure.  On special occasions, we might even give her whole watermelons to smash and eat.

Seyia with a snack (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Seyia with a snack (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Every rhino has its own personality and Seyia is a real sweetie, yet definitely has some sass and spunk to her.  She loves attention – getting a good rub down, taking a bubble bath, and most of all, interacting with her keepers during training sessions.

Seyia has learned so much over the past year here in Cincinnati. We train all of our animals to do lots of different husbandry behaviors, which helps us provide them with the best care possible. This is especially important when caring for rhinos. The black rhino has a reputation for being extremely aggressive, charging readily at threats. They have even been observed charging tree trunks and termite mounds in the wild! So it takes a very strong bond between keepers and their rhinos to accomplish all that we need to do with them. Only once this trust is formed between keeper and rhino can training begin.

Feeding Seyia treats

Feeding Seyia treats

We began the process by hand-feeding her lots of her favorite treats. After that, we began target training and moved forward from there. Seyia has now learned to move either side of her body up against the side of her indoor enclosure. This allows us to get a good look at her, bathe her, and even apply a Skin So Soft solution to help keep her skin moisturized and keep the flies away. She can place either front foot on a block for nail and foot care and is also trained to lay down on command. Right now, we are working with her on opening her mouth so we can check out those pearly whites.  Not only is all this training useful for husbandry and medical care, it’s also a form of enrichment for her.

Checking out Seyia's foot

Checking out Seyia’s foot

Training Seyia for mouth check-ups

Training Seyia for mouth check-ups

Seyia, often referred to as “little girl”, is not so little anymore! In fact, as of December 2013, she weighed in at a whopping 2,400 lbs. She is due to be weighed again this fall, and I guarantee she’s grown. Her body and horn are much bigger than when she first arrived.

How do we weigh a rhino? We use a set of truck scales. Our Maintenance department constructed a heavy duty “weight board” that we carefully place over the scales and the rhino can just step on up. We feed her some of her favorite snacks while we watch the number going up until we have an accurate weight. We do this a few times just to be extra certain it’s accurate. This is not only important to ensure a healthy weight, but also for our veterinary staff to know in case of an emergency or if they need to prescribe her any medications.

Next time you are at the Zoo, be sure to stop by the black rhino exhibit in Rhino Reserve (across from LaRosa’s) to see Seyia.  Also, be sure to come out for World Rhino Day on September 21 to celebrate and support rhino conservation efforts here at the Zoo and across the globe.

WRD Words

August 26, 2014   2 Comments

Five Rhino Species Forever!

On Sunday, September 21, the Zoo will celebrate World Rhino Day. The Zoo is home to African black, Indian and Sumatran rhinos and is a leader in captive breeding and assisted reproductive techniques for rhino species here and abroad. We invite the Cincinnati community and our dedicated Zoo members to join us on World Rhino Day to celebrate our successes, learn about the challenges that rhinos face in the wild, and most importantly, partake in a fun-filled jam-packed day focused on the five species of rhino inhabiting our planet: African black, African white, Indian, Sumatran and Javan rhinos.

WRD Words

WRD LogoThe theme for World Rhino Day is “Five Rhino Species Forever”.  Stay tuned over the next month and a half as we countdown to World Rhino Day 2014 and blog about the special rhinos we have here at the Zoo and our efforts to conserve these magnificent animals and ensure there will be five rhino species forever!

August 7, 2014   No Comments

Getting Ready For Summer With New Black Rhino Seyia!

At the end of last summer I wrote about training Klyde, our male black Rhino, to happily enter a crate, so he could travel to his new home and hopefully produce a bouncing baby rhino calf.

But when Klyde left he also left us with an empty exhibit and a hole in our heart.  He would come down to our encounter area each and every day allowing visitors to have an up close experience, watching him do his training behaviors. All could appreciate how strong and intelligent he was, how all 3,450lbs of him moved effortlessly, and how truly magnificent he was.  He was after all the mascot of the zoo, the rhino in our logo, who could ever fill this void or even come close to replacing him?!


Black rhino Seyia target training.

Enter Seyia!  This three year old adolescent and southern bell came to us from her birth zoo in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Leaving her mom and the only keepers she has ever known, this brave little lady arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo in late Aug of 2013.  In a few short weeks she went from being timid and little nervous, of all that was new, to her to relishing her keepers and exhibit.  When she found the mud wallow for the first time you could physically see the joy and excitement on her face.

Seyia enjoying the mud

Seyia enjoying the mud

Adjustment period flew by for her and quickly she was ready to learn more than just her exhibit and keepers.  She was ready to start training!  Marjorie, her main keeper, had a list for us to begin training from.  The first was for Seyia to lean her body against the poles of her enclosure, so she could be bathed, skin checked and oiled, and just for an overall good evaluation of her health.  We couldn’t believe how quickly she caught on to asking her to move over.  Then we added asking her to place her front foot on a block so we could begin doing foot care, she figured this out rapidly too!  The first time the “light bulb” went on, she lifted her foot so high we were laughing about her overzealous nature to please. The next hurdle was teaching her to lie down. Imagine asking a 2,400 lb animal to place herself in the most vulnerable position, in front of hundreds of visitors. She is now doing this reliably out on exhibit during her training sessions!

Smart Seyia has mastered the "lie down" behavior.

Smart Seyia has mastered the “lie down” behavior.

Smart is not all Seyia has going for her, she is also very sweet natured and craves attention from her keepers.  So much so she began calling to them, something black rhino’s are NOT known to do.  Marjorie and I decided it would be an incredible experience for patrons to be able to hear this animal actually make a sound.  So we began capturing the behavior and now she will “speak” on command.  She is still a little unsure how loud we want her be outside, but inside she is quite happy to be loud all day!  Her vocal call is such a different sound.  Some compare it to a whale, others to a bird, and some say it sounds like a child’s kazoo.  The best part is this spring and summer you will be able to hear her, see her, and watch her train with Marjorie in her exhibit!

April 7, 2014   3 Comments