• Abigail Hall

Oklahoma City Zoo welcomes two new Indian rhinos

Originally published at OU Daily Feb. 26, 2019

The Oklahoma City Zoo announced the arrival of two Indian rhinos to its "sanctuary Asia" habitat on social media Feb. 25.

The rhinos, Arun, 29, and Shanti, 32, were transported from Fort Worth Zoo on Feb. 20. 

The #OKCZoo is happy to announce the arrival of two Indian rhinos to its Sanctuary Asia habitat. The duo, Arun (29) and Shanti (32), arrived Wednesday, February 20, from the @FortWorthZoo as that facility prepares for extensive renovations to their Asian species habitat. pic.twitter.com/ym5YKw1jiu — Oklahoma City Zoo (@okczoo) February 25, 2019

Daniel Custer, lead caretaker of pachyderms at the zoo, said the Fort Worth Zoo is going under long-term renovations to its Asian species habitat, so the two rhinos were transferred to their new permanent home in Oklahoma City. 

The rhinos are adjusting to their new habitat with the zoo's other Indian rhino, Niki, 12, who arrived in 2009 from the Bronx Zoo, said Candice Rennels, zoo director of marketing and public relations. All three rhinos are available to be seen by zoo-goers in their habitat. 

Custer said Arun and Shanti's skin appear more white and grey than Niki's skin, which is tinted red from the Oklahoma red dirt. 

Indian rhinos' life expectancy in captivity is estimated at 40 years, while in the wild it is estimated at 30-40 years. 

Indian rhinos are considered "vulnerable," which is defined as facing risk of extinction in the wild by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The IUCN manages the Red List of Threatened Species, which lists nine categories indicating species conservation status, ranging from not threatened to extinct. 

The categories are as follows: not evaluated, data deficient, least concern, near threatened, vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, extinct in the wild and extinct.  

Custer said the conservation status of Indian rhinos is "a success story, but not a finished cause." 

In the 1900s there were 32 recorded Indian rhinos in the wild due to poaching, while today there are an average of 3,600, Custer said. 

The zoo participates in conservation efforts with the Association of Zoos and Aquarium's through its Round Up for Conservation program, Rennels said. 

The program allows individuals to round-up their purchases at the zoo to be donated to the zoo's conservation efforts. Purchase examples include gift shops, cafés, restaurants and more. Since this program was instituted in 2011, the zoo has raised more than $475,000 toward conservation efforts. 

Rennels said one of the zoo's rhino conservation projects is its annual fundraising event, Bowling for Rhinos, which will be held July 27 at Heritage Lanes, 11917 N. Pennsylvania Ave., OKC.

More information about the event will be released closer to the date, Rennels said. 

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