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World Rhino Day at the Central Florida Zoo

World Rhino Day is September 22, 2017. The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens will be celebrating on Saturday, September 23, with special games, activities, and more, so come out and learn more about these amazing animals! 

 

How can you help save wild rhinos? Learn some rhino facts and learn how you can help. 

 

Did you know there are 5 species of rhinoceros?
The five species of rhino are white, black, greater one-horned, Sumatran, and Javan. White and black rhinos are native to Africa, while greater one-horned, Sumatran, and Javan are native to Asia. The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is home to a greater one-horned rhino named PJ. These rhinos are mainly found in Nepal and India. They are the second largest species of rhino, falling behind the white rhino. 
 
What threats face wild rhinos?
Poaching is the number one threat that faces wild rhinos. Rhino horn is extremely valuable on the black market, especially in Asia. Many believe that rhino horn has medicinal properties, but this is simply not true! Rhino horn is made up of the same material that makes up our hair and fingernails: keratin. In fact, parts of their horn can break off and regrow, just like hair! 
 

Habitat loss is another threat to rhinos. The greater one-horned rhino lives in areas of India and Nepal that can be desirable for farming purposes, resulting in conflicts over land-use. In the early 1900s, this species of rhino declined to almost extinction due to its habitat being converted to farmland. 

 The Indian and Nepalese governments have enacted strict protections for the greater one-horned rhino, resulting in their populations increasing. However, this species continues to remain at risk because over 70% of its population is in one area: Kaziranga National Park. Poaching remains a threat, and therefore the Nepalese and Indian governments must be extremely vigilant in their protection efforts. 

The African rhinos, the white and black, face huge threats from poaching. Between 1970 and 1992, the black rhino suffered a 96% decrease in population, resulting in its status as a Critically Endangered species. 

The other species of Asian rhinos, the Javan and Sumatran, also suffered heavily due to habitat loss and poaching. These populations remain precariously close to extinction, with only 100 or less of each. These species now have the added pressure of low genetic variability due to their extremely small population sizes.
 
How can you help?
Be Informed, Buy Informed: The Illegal trade of animal parts is on par with trafficking of drugs and people. Organized crime syndicates are involved in the trade not only of rhino horn, but many other animal parts, such as elephant ivory, illegal pets, and more. The Association of Zoos & Aquariums, of which the Central Florida Zoo is a member of, and the US Wildlife Trafficking Alliance have partnered in the campaign “Be Informed, Buy Informed”. Visit their website here to learn more about commonly trafficked animal parts and how you can be sure to avoid purchasing gifts and trinkets that could negatively impact endangered species. 
 
Bowling for Rhinos
Each year, animal keepers at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums host “Bowling for Rhinos” events to raise funds for rhino conservation in Africa and Asia. Coordinated by the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK), an AZA Conservation Partner, these events raise more than $500,000 each year. The Central Florida Zoo’s team, as part of Greater Orlando AAZK, puts on a Bowling for Rhinos event every fall (usually around August). 
 
Save Vanishing Species Stamp
People can show their support for wildlife conservation by purchasing a “Vanishing Species” postal stamp to benefit the Multinational Species Conservation Fund (MSCF). Proceeds from sales of the stamp support public-private partnerships that conserve black rhinos and other species in their native habitats. Through the MSCF programs, the United States supplements the efforts of developing countries to sustain wildlife populations, address threats such as illegal poaching, reduce human-wildlife conflict, and protect essential habitat. This federal program benefits accredited zoos and aquariums in their field conservation efforts and partnerships with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
 
Support Your Local Zoo
A visit to your local zoo to learn about rhinos and other endangered species can be eye-opening to many people of all ages. Additionally, zoos and aquariums throughout the U.S., including the Central Florida Zoo, support (both financially and scientifically) a huge variety of conservation programs throughout the world.  For over two decades, AZA-accredited institutions have raised funds through the “Bowling for Rhinos" program of the American Association of Zoo Keepers, an AZA Conservation Partner. Funds have been directed to in-range conservation programs in both Africa and Asia. Between 2012-2016, 94 AZA-accredited facilities reported investing nearly $5.3 million towards rhinoceros conservation benefitting all five extant rhino species: black, white, greater one-horned (Indian), Sumatran, and Javan.

The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is involved in AZA’s Species Survival Plan (SSP) for greater one-horned rhinos. SSPs are coordinated conservation and breeding programs throughout AZA-accredited facilities. The Central Florida Zoo was once home to another rhino, Jahi, who went to another facility in Ohio to breed with females as a part of this coordinated effort. The Central Florida Zoo plays an important role in helping raise male rhinos through adolescence into sexual maturity, when they can then breed with females to help save their species! 
 
Want to learn more?

Visit the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens to learn more about the greater one-horned rhino in person! We are also home to a huge variety of threatened species, such as the Grand Cayman rock iguana, clouded leopard, and eastern indigo snake. The Zoo has been involved in breeding programs for all of these species (among others). Eastern indigo snakes bred at the Central Florida Zoo have gone on to be released into the wild in Florida and Alabama, in areas which they have not been found for years. 

During your visit, book a rhino encounter! Meet PJ the rhino up-close and chat with one of our Animal Care Specialists one-on-one to learn more about this species. 

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