Oudoor Furnishing and Maintenance

The way an enclosure is furnished can make a big difference to its suitability for mixing rhinos.  Visual breaks either using the natural topography of the paddock or by planting or building artificial barriers is important to allow animals to get out of view of other animals and visitors.

A fresh water source should be constantly accessible. Water should be changed daily.  Drinking water should be offered in a water trough which should be concrete, automatic-fill or a continuous-flow device. Regular cleaning should occur at a rate that inhibits the growth of algae and bacteria. Water devices should be substantially constructed to prevent injury, upset, spillage or leakage and preferably be placed in the corner of the enclosure. It is important that these water containers have no sharp edges or corners that could injure a rhino.

Photo of a black rhino in a mud pool

A young Black rhino in a mud pool.

Black rhinos need and enjoy access to pools and or mud wallows for skin health, temperature regulation and behavioural enrichment. The size of mud wallows should be gauged by the number of animals in the exhibit to allow ample room for each individual.  Rhinos will construct their own mud wallow when given a helping start by digging out a wet area of the paddock.  Mud wallows should be renovated periodically to prevent contamination.

Pools are occasionally used by Black rhino in very warm conditions, however generally they prefer mud wallows rather than water pools. Any pools used should be shallow, between 0.3 m to 1.0 m deep.  To allow the rhino to safely access the pool, ramps are preferable to steps and should have a slope not greater than 20o. Ideally ramps in and out of the pool should be in place around the entire perimeter, or at least in two locations around the pool.  Multiple entry sites into a pool prevent it from being a dead-end in the enclosure.  In the design of slopes or steps, keeper access for cleaning should be considered.  The pool substrate should be broom-swept concrete to prevent it from being too slippery.  Pools should be located in areas that are shaded for at least part of the day. Rubbing posts may be particularly effective if placed near mud wallows or pools. Post material must be non-toxic to rhinos.

Photo of an outdoor shelter.

Outdoor shelter protecting rhinos from sun / rain.

Free access to shade is essential, so sun shelters or shade in the form of trees or other vegetation must be provided. It is recommended that a number of adequate shady zones are provided, which can be natural or built structures. Sun shelters should also be usable as rain shelters; trees rarely serve this purpose.Indoor enclosures are not acceptable for sun protection unless they are accessible at all times. In parts of the enclosure protection from the wind should be provided.

Any new exhibit should include the capability for video recording systems indoor and outdoor.  In addition, a scale for weighing animals is desirable and strongly recommended. A restraint device or an area for restraint should be included in the design of every facility.

A photo showing thick ropes protecting large trees.

Thick ropes can be used to protect large trees.

Natural substrates should be spot-cleaned and raked daily, and hard-surfaced areas that are not exposed to the elements should be dry-cleaned or hosed daily.

Where rhinos create an outdoor midden as wild rhinos do, this should be left in place. Care needs to be taken to ensure that this does not produce hygiene problems especially during wet periods.

Thick ropes coiled round tree trunks have provided adequate protection for large trees against horn damage with smaller trees needing protection from being pushed over.


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