This week the Indian rhinos at the San Diego Zoo are going to have a lot of excitement. And for that matter, so am I! If you have been to the Zoo in the past month you may have noticed that the elephants have moved to their new home in Elephant Odyssey. Many guests are asking, “What is going into the old elephant exhibit?” The answer: Soman and Surat, the Indian rhino brothers, of course! (See post, Rhinos: One on One).
Just as when I trained Gram, our previous Indian rhino, for his move to Kansas (see post, Gram the Rhino: The Journey Begins), I have had to spend time with each of the boys. Soman, the calmer of the two, has been great with the crate training. He stepped into the crate well and has been quite consistent throughout the training period. I am even able to close the door behind him while he is in the crate and he continues to eat pellets.
The crate is a large wooden box, reinforced with a metal frame. Even though their trip to the old elephant yard may be only a few hundred feet, it is still good to have a safe container for the move. Many guests have asked why we don’t just set up a temporary fence and walk them across. As someone who has worked with rhinos for almost eight years, there is no such thing as “temporary” with rhinos! Either it can hold them or it can’t. A little fence across the street can’t. But I admit, it would be fun to see them just walk across to their new digs.
Surat has been more of a challenge. He did not enjoy his first experience in the crate, so it has taken a lot more time to get him used to it again. He is very sensitive to noise, and every time a bus goes by or someone yells, he backs out. It just takes time and patience. I am confident he will come in and we will be able to close the door behind him just fine. Soon he’ll be in a new, larger exhibit so it will be worth it.
Very soon our guests will be able to get up close and personal with the rhinos and some of our other animal ambassadors with the Zoo’s Backstage Pass program. Soman and Surat are ready to greet their adoring fans!
Laura Weiner is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.