Black Rhino (Phila) comes to Johannesburg Zoo

A five year female old Black Rhino (Phila) will find a new home at the Johannesburg Zoo. She arrives on Monday 25 October. Phila has been through so much, she was attacked on two occasions by poachers and shot at least nine times. After this second attack she was again moved to yet another secret location, but within weeks helicopters were seen on two occasions flying low over this boma. At the same time that Phila was first injured, a prime breeding cow in Phila’s herd was killed by a shot from above and behind in an attack which could only have been carried out from a helicopter. She is from Modimolle where she was bred as part of a breeding programme to establish a viable herd of the critically endangered Black Rhino. She will now find temporary sanctuary at the Johannesburg Zoo, where she will recuperate before being returned to her original herd. Phila’s injuries are severe but not life threatening. She battles to hear, eat and smell.

At the zoo, Phila will occupy camp no. 70, which is between Jungle and Amazon Avenue . She will undergo an ongoing medical routine to monitor her injuries and her feed will include lucerne and boskos.

Rhinos in South Africa has been under siege from poachers. It is estimated that in the last year, over 200 rhinos were killed by poachers for their horns. Horns are thought to be used for ornamental dagger handles in Yemen and traditional Chinese medicine.The horns are composed entirely of keratin – a tough protein found in hair and nails.

Rhinos are easily recognisable as they are quite large, sometimes with pleated skin, relatively short limbs and horned snout. They are almost dinosaur-like in appearance. They are found in the savannas of Africa and the tropical forests of Asia. There are currently five species of rhinoceros surviving. The White and Black rhino are the only rhinos in Africa. The Indian Rhino lives in India whilst the Javan and Sumatran Rhinos live in South East Asia. According to Cites Three of the five species: Black, Javan and Sumatran Rhino are critically endangered, Indian is listed as endangered while White Rhino is until recently reasonably secure. The two biggest threats to rhino is poaching and habitat destruction & fragmentation.

The names, White and Black Rhino have nothing to do with their colour, in fact, they are much the same colour. It is an error that slipped in during translations from Dutch-Afrikaans to English. The White Rhino is also called the Square-lipped or Wide-Mouthed Rhino, is larger and grazes grass, lives in grassland, with the calf walking in front of the mother. These animals may weigh up to 2.3 tonnes and can reach speeds of up to 45 km/h. Each foot has three toes. White Rhinos live in herds of at least eight, consisting of a dominant male, female(s), submissive bull and offsprings. They become sexually matured at the age of 6 -7 , with a getastion period of 15 -16 months.The Black rhino is the Hook-lipped rhino which browses on leaves, is found in rain forest to arid scrubland and the calf walks behind the mother. The Hook-lipped Rhino is the more aggressive of the two African species.

Before Phila’s arrival, the Zoo had only one of the five rhino species, the White Rhino. Zimbi (cow) and Peter (bull), which are 15 and 8 years old. They feed on lucerne, teff and boskos , are active in the morning and afternoon when it is not too hot. They also spend time wallowing in a mud bath to keep cool and fight external parasites. Following the mud bath they would scratch themselves on small stumps and rocks. They also play with boomerball and tyres, which they push around on the ground. Peter is now sexually matured but still trying to gain territory dominance.

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