The Netherlands has 14 EAZA zoos (European organization of zoos). 700 million people worldwide visit zoos every year. As a result, zoos have a large reach. There are challenges in keeping rhinos in zoos, and that some people prefer that all animals are wild. How can zoos contribute to the preservation of rhino?
The EAZA and the AZA (American association for zoos and aquariums) have set up guidelines for keeping the three types of rhinos to pursue high welfare standards. Keeping wild animals in captivity is always a challenge, but research has shown that rhinos adapt well to their lives in captivity. There are ways to enrich the rhino's environment through mud puddles and hills to create relaxation. Rhinos need a mixed landscape. As a management tool, rhinos are rotated between housings where they are always in a different landscape. Also offering good feed management contributes to the well-being of the rhino, in the wild they eat many different seasonal plants.
Zoos work together in many ways, and are important for rhino conservation. Nowadays there are specific online programs that help in adequate rhino management. They think along with preventive measures in the wild and offer safety to the rhinos in captivity. However, this safety was no longer obvious in 2017 when a southern white rhino was shot in a French zoo. The poached rhino named Vince was robbed of his horns, Vince was born in the Netherlands and only 4 years old. This incident is a reminder that not only rhinos in Africa and Asia are at risk, and that there is in fact no safe place for the rhino. Since the incident in 2017, all zoos have been advised to tighten up the safety measures around their rhinos.
There are 302 zoos that hold rhinos worldwide. This is a total of 1037 rhinos (save the rhino, July 2019). In the Netherlands, 5 zoos have rhino. The black rhino can only be seen in Blijdorp Zoo. Many zoos work together to stimulate reproduction. There are currently no Sumatran rhinos in zoos. The last Sumatran rhino was transferred from the US in 2015 to the Sumantran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia. Each rhino species is managed in a program, EAZA’s European Endangered Spiecies program and the SSPs Species Survival Programs. These programs contribute to the reproduction of the rhino species in order to maintain healthy populations in captivity while protecting genetic health. Reproduction goes through natural mating or artificial insemination.
The purchase of rhinos by zoos is done through the rules of CITES (Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species). CITES supervises a suitable destination and all applicable laws. The import of rhinos usually has to do with creating a healthy genetic basis. This also happens the other way around, in June 2019 the critically endangered Eastern black rhino moved from zoos in the Czech Republic, Denmark and the United Kingdom to the original habitat in Rwanda. Although the animals are born in zoos, they can be of great importance for the reintroduction where rhinos are extinct locally. The rhinos can bring a population to a viable level and / or increase the genetic diversity within a population. The rhino will have to adapt to nature again when it is transferred from a zoo. This is a time-consuming and difficult process, but is essential for survival.
Education is without a doubt one of the spearheads of zoos. Many zoos have specific educational programs for children and adults to learn about nature conservation and the environment, with which they try to interest and inspire the public and thus create awareness. Zoos also support certain international institutions in the fight against poaching. Rhinos in captivity have offered many opportunities for research on rhinos that would not or hardly be possible in wild populations. More knowledge has been gained about combating certain diseases, but also about improvements in reproductive techniques.