Get Up Close and Personal with Rhinos!
Indianapolis Zoo’s rhino exhibit features unprecedented vistas for visitors,
including a dynamic elevated overlook pavilion that is thrust into the
center of the exhibit itself and is reached by crossing a rope suspension
bridge. Resembling an African safari tent nestled among shady trees,
this covered pavilion exemplifies the Zoo’s approach on this exhibit — giving the opportunity for the Zoo visitor to get as close as possible to
these two-ton animals so they will begin to understand what is authentically
wondrous about rhinos. The exhibit also features another elevated platform
that overlooks the rhinos’ mud wallow — a sure favorite spot for these
Contrary to belief, the name
of these animals does not refer to their color, which is actually gray. The
white rhino's name derives from the Dutch Afrikaans word "weit," meaning
wide, a reference to its wide, square muzzle adapted for grazing. The white
rhino also has a pronounced hump on the neck and a long face.
The rhinos are part of the
Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan (SSP), a
cooperative population management and conservation program. Indianapolis Zoo officials hope that this group will be the nucleus of a
breeding program for this threatened species and a continuation of the
success the Zoo has already enjoyed with its African elephant reproductive
research and breeding program.
material was selected to create the effect of a natural habitat of the white
rhino, which is the grassland savanna. The dominant shade tree used is the
honey locust, which has the kind of branching pattern and open canopy that
might be found on the savanna. Shrubs with a gnarly, rugged character and
both native and ornamental grasses make up the balance of the plant palette.
The old elephant yard pond that functioned as an exhibit barrier was
converted to a mud wallow designed to function as a naturally occurring
feature, while allowing zoo staff access for regular maintenance and
The stars of the rhino
exhibit, of course, are the rhinos themselves. According to the Zoo
curatorial staff, the first thing visitors are likely to notice is the
immense size and peculiar angularity of this animal's head. As visitors
continue to watch, they are likely to become impressed with the natural
agility and smooth gait of the rhinos. After a time, it is hoped that
visitors will also develop a sense of being in the presence of a gentle and
inquisitive demeanor. Under close observation, the rhinos will seem to
change from ungainly giants to beings of incredible attributes that are both
charming and attractive in their own particular way.
The Indianapolis Zoological
Society is indebted to John and Cynde Barnes for their contribution in
bringing the rhinos to Indianapolis. In addition, other significant
contributions came from Covance, The Efroymson Fund of the Central Indiana
Community Foundation, Polly H. Hix, and Bob & Cheryl Sparks.