Rhino Playtime

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The rhino brothers eagerly accept treats from a Backstage Pass participant.

The rhino brothers eagerly accept treats from a Backstage Pass participant.

It has been a few months since my last update on our two Indian rhinos, Soman and Surat (see post Rhinos Move across the Street) at the San Diego Zoo. They have been very busy relaxing in the sun, hanging out in their pool, and meeting guests everyday. Moving to the former elephant exhibit has offered them many things. A bigger barn, a huge pool, and a much larger exhibit, which they have been taking full advantage of.

Many guests wonder when the animals are active at the Zoo. Most days it is early in the morning when the keepers are cleaning and feeding and at the end of the day when the sun is going down. Luckily, many of our guests have been able to see our rhino brothers in full spirit regularly. If you stop by the rhino exhibit in the Zoo’s Urban Jungle, you will see the speed and agility of these large herbivores.

They usually start by using their horns to push each other around while in the pool. Soman will put his horn under Surat’s back legs and lift him a foot in the air. This may not sound like much until you realize that Surat weighs about 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms)! Soman also stands up on Surat’s back to survey the view. They spin in circles, hitting each other in the sides and pushing, until one decides to run out of the pool. The other gives chase and the fun begins! They run full speed around the yard and through the gates, navigating quickly around any obstacle. If it has been dry recently, a big cloud of dust obscures the view of portions of the exhibit. They have a blast! It is a great show for the guests and the rhinos get some good exercise out of it, too.

People wonder if it is fighting or too violent, but this is normal rhino play. They push and shove anything they can get to, be it a tree, toy, or other rhino. It is healthy play and helps keep them in shape. They love the lounging part of the day so much that I am glad they get a chance to get up and get their hearts going.

So if you stop by and the pool is filling or it is late in the afternoon, take a look at the cloud of dust going by. You just might see two rhinos in a healthy play battle!

Laura Weiner is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.