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Category — Enrichment

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

A Roaring Success!

International Tiger Day was a roaring success! Thousands of guests came out to the Zoo on Tuesday, July 29, and those who visited Cat Canyon joined us in honoring our Malayan tiger brothers, Taj and Who-Dey, and their counterparts in the wild.

From 10:00 to 3:00, Zoo staff and volunteers were on hand to talk to guests about tigers and conservation. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

From 10:00 to 3:00, Zoo staff and volunteers were on hand to talk to guests about tigers and conservation. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Guests could compare a cast of a tiger's paw to their own hand. (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Guests could compare a cast of a tiger’s paw to their own hand and check out a cardboard “deer” that will soon become a toy for the tigers. (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Here I am showing a young guests one of the tigers' favorite enrichment toys - a huge hard plastic ball. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Here I am showing a young guest one of the tigers’ favorite enrichment toys – a huge hard plastic ball. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

We painted tiger whiskers on hundreds of guests... (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

We painted tiger whiskers on hundreds of guests… (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

and asked them to give us their best tiger roar! (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

and asked them to give us their best tiger roar! (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Even Taj and Who-Dey showed off their stripes. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Even Taj and Who-Dey showed up to show off their stripes. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Check out more fantastic Tiger Day photos on our Flickr site! Our own Pat Story created a fun video of the event. And Channel 9 featured it on their news as well.

Thanks for coming out and making our first International Tiger Day event a blast and be sure to add July 29 to your calendar for next year!


August 1, 2014   No Comments

Lion Enrichment

John the lion.

John the lion. Is that a smile?

John and Imani, our two African lions, are getting to know each other behind the scenes.  To make their eventual pairing as successful as possible, the introduction process is slow, strategic and multi-phased.

Today we gave John some straw from Imani’s enclosure.  You can see his response in the above photo.  The smile-like expression on his face, called a Flehmen Response, indicates that he’s “smelling” the scent using his mouth.  There is a special organ between the roof of the mouth and the palate that helps detect certain pheromones and chemical cues. Basically, John is trying to figure out if Imani is sexually receptive by smelling her urine. :) In the animal biz, we often call it “stink face”! It looks pretty good on John! ;)

Imani showed far less interest in the pile of John’s straw that she received, which is not surprising since we are  not seeing any estrus behaviors from her right now.

Check back for more updates on John and Imani’s introduction process.


February 21, 2014   1 Comment