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Indian Rhinos: The Divas of the Rhino World

If you asked me to describe our Indian rhino Manjula (or as we fondly call her, Jula), you might think I’d start by having you take note of her ears, horn, tail and skin folds looking for identifiable characteristics like a blemish or mark. However, you’d be surprised to learn that I’d respond with a more thorough description of her personality and sense of style. Yes, style. Indian rhino style! As one young zoo visitor told her brother when he asked if Manjula was a boy or a girl rhino “Of course she’s a girl, she has pigtails”. It took a minute, but it became clear to me she was speaking of Manjula’s long ear hair (or pigtails). I’ve never forgotten that story and as you can see from Manjula’s picture she does like she’s wearing her pigtails!

Manjula's 'Pigtails'

Manjula’s ‘Pigtails’

Manjula, like other Indian rhinos has a distinct personality. She and others of her species are the divas of the rhino world. Indian rhinos think a lot of themselves, and rightly they should. At 3500 lbs, Manjula could be a force to be reckoned with! However, we know her as our smart, inquisitive and funny girl that doesn’t miss a beat. That means that we (researchers, vets and most importantly her keepers) have to try and stay one step ahead of her and anticipate her next move so she doesn’t outsmart us.

Manjula checking you checking her out!

Manjula checking you checking her out!

Zoo visitors will find Manjula on exhibit at the Veldt, located up the hill from the African black rhino. Indian rhinos typically like to be in their own world, content to ignore everything outside their boundary/exhibit. Manjula, is quite the opposite. This girl has to be in and aware of all the action going on around her. Her smart and attentive nature makes her all the more receptive and in some cases more of a challenge when we have to introduce changes to her routine. I’m the first to admit, I’m a creature of habit. I like (crave) my routine too. However, because I’m involved in work, family, and social events I have to adapt to changes in my routine (admittedly, not always so gracefully). For our rhinos, we aim to keep their daily routine fairly consistent. However, there are times when change has to occur. For instance, there may be a time when construction is going on in a nearby exhibit and Manjula has to come in early for the night.   Our top notch rhino keepers try to prepare Manjula for such alterations in her routine by establishing a strong bond and trust between her and them so when they need her to something, she does it cooperatively and with confidence. Manjula’s keepers and the Curator of Animal Development and Training also work to condition her for aspects involved in husbandry, veterinary medicine and reproductive care.

Manjula has been trained to open her mouth for visual inspection. Training helps to establish a strong bond between Manjula and her keepers. Take note of Manjula's impressive, sharp canine teeth.

Manjula has been trained to open her mouth for visual inspection. Training helps to establish a strong bond between Manjula and her keepers. Take note of Manjula’s impressive, sharp canine teeth.

Born 10/25/2005 in Zanesville, OH, Manjula was the first Indian rhino calf born at the Wilds. When she came to Cincinnati Zoo in 2010 to partake in CREW Indian rhino research program, Manjula still had some of her baby teeth. Over the following year she lost those baby teeth and her adult incisors grew in. As you can see from this photo, they are quite impressive! Unlike African rhinos, Asian rhinos possess incisors. Both African and Asian rhinos use their horns to spar with each other and to dig up dirt and mud to make a proper wallow. Incisors are used to inflict damage to other rhinos perceived as a threat. Like a knife, the incisors can easily puncture the skin of another rhino. It’s one of the factors that can make breeding introductions somewhat challenging in Asian rhino species – not only do they have a horn with which to fight, they also have razor sharp teeth and aren’t afraid to use them if they don’t like the mate you’ve set them up with!

Manjula Lounging in her pool.

Manjula Lounging in her pool.

On most days you’ll find Manjula soaking in her pool. Indian rhinos are the most aquatic of the rhino species. In the wild, Indian rhinos spend 80% of their time in water or in the wet, sandy or marshy areas around large bodies of water. Given their aquatic nature, one of the biggest challenges faced in keeping Indian rhinos in captivity is maintaining foot health. Manjula’s keepers routinely assess her foot conformation, appearance, ease of movement and perceived comfort. Having access to and utilizing her pool is one way Manjula keeps her feet in good stead. In addition, Manjula’s keepers and the vet staff spend time each week giving Manjula a rhino pedicure, which involves an epsom salt foot bath, nail filing and foot pad massage.

Next time you are at the Zoo, make sure to stop by Manjula’s exhibit to see her and check out her style. Also, be sure to come out for World Rhino Day on September 21 to celebrate all rhinos and the efforts being done to safeguard their survival!

August 15, 2014   1 Comment

So What’s In A Name?

Last year the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Zoo guests, friends, and followers celebrated the amazing effort that went into “Gladys” the gorilla’s surrogacy project. This work demonstrated the great lengths zoos will go to for their animals as well as the fantastic collaboration between institutions to do what is right and in the best interest of the animal.  This collaboration is the reason the Cincinnati Zoo selected the name Gladys – she was named after the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, where she was born.  Staff is Brownsville selflessly transferred the orphaned one month old baby to Cincinnati because it was best for her. Read previous post about Gladys’ name…

With the birth of “Asha’s” #BabyGorilla on August 4th, we celebrate the even bigger picture of wild gorilla conservation.  Along with all the great work done for gorillas in the North America, the Cincinnati Zoo has participated in wild gorilla conversation for almost 20 years.  The Zoo’s primary focus has been partnering with the Nouabale Ndoki Project (NNP) in the Republic of Congo. The NNP includes the Mbeli Bai Study, the longest running study of the critically endangered wild western lowland gorilla.  Another important part of this work includes an area called Mondika (pronounced Mondeeka).  Here, gorillas are habituated for up close research and for eco tourism.  The Cincinnati Zoo recently helped facilitate the habitation of a second group of gorillas in Mondika and went into a three year agreement to continue the support, which includes habituating a third group.  Habituation is a very important part of the operation, providing keen insight into up close gorilla behavior while leaving people with the inspirational experience of seeing these magnificent animals in their natural habitats.

Part of the Cincinnati Zoo’s mission includes inspiring people with wildlife every day and what’s more inspiring than Asha’s new baby?  As we celebrated the great, collaborative,  work done in zoos with the name Gladys, we now celebrate wild gorillas and our efforts to help save them by naming Asha’s new baby “Mondika” .  If the baby turns out to be a boy, his nickname will be “Mondo”.  If the baby is a girl, her nickname will be “Mona”.   We’re really looking forward to watching our little gorilla ambassador grow up and welcome the opportunity to share stories from the wild through little Mondika for many years to come.  Stay tuned for the big “Mondo or Mona” announcement as soon as Asha allows us to have a peek!

August 8, 2014   1 Comment

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