Rolling Hills Zoo's southern rhino dead at age 30

·2 min read
Uzazi at Rolling Hills Zoo.
Uzazi at Rolling Hills Zoo.

The Rolling Hills Zoo family is grieving the loss of Uzazi, their male southern white rhinoceros, who was the last of the original rhinos that arrived at the zoo in 1995.

At 30 years old, Uzazi began developing age-related issues, which were not responding to treatment. The zoo's animal care staff and veterinarian have monitored his health for the past several months, but his quality of life was declining rapidly.

It was decided that humanely euthanizing him was the kindest option available, a release from the zoo stated.

Uzazi was born on Nov. 20, 1991 at San Diego Wild Animal Park. He was moved to Salina in 1995 and was one of the first animals to call Rolling Hills Zoo home.

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“Of the original group of rhinos, Uzazi was the youngest, and one of his favorite things to do was smash boxes, sweet potatoes, bags, and even an occasional pumpkin,” said Devney Bowen, RHZ head zookeeper. “He also loved to manipulate things, so we created enrichment to encourage those natural behaviors."

Bowen said one of the rhinoceros' favorite things to do was play with a PVC shaker filled with pellets or scent.

"Once he had the shaker he would move it with his horn to get the pellets to fall out or release the scent of the female rhinos," Bowen said. "Uzazi was very intelligent. When working on hoof care he learned to lie on his side and present all four feet straight out for inspection and trimming."

Uzazi also opened his mouth so the zookeepers could look inside.

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“Uzazi has been very gentle and loving,” said Vickie Musselman, the zoo's register. “He always enjoyed lots of attention from keepers, staff and visitors, including being talked to, touched and brushed. He especially loved his baths, most days standing directly in front of the hose with his rear to you while you were cleaning, pretty much making you give him a light shower.”

Laura Mason, hoofstock keeper, said he was sweet, gentle and always in good spirits.

“When I decided I wanted to work with animals my goal was to work with rhinos, and Uzazi was the first rhino I fell in love with," Mason said. "His calm eyes and gentle demeanor meant everyone who met him instantly saw the depth of these incredible creatures."

Uzazi also loved a party, she said, and he would stroll out into his yard and check out each box before starting to eat his treats.

All zookeepers agree, he never moved quickly, but he enjoyed rubbing his horn, strolling and grazing.

"He will leave a big gap in all of our hearts and the barn will never be the same without our ‘old man’,” Mason said.

This article originally appeared on Salina Journal: Southern white rhinoceros dies of old age at Rolling Hills Zoo Salina