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Staff Reports



MUSKINGUM COUNTY RESIDENT’S DONATION

FUNDS VETERANS’ RETREAT, CABINS AT THE WILDS

Cumberland, OH—Zanesville resident and World War II veteran, J. W. Straker (Bill) has donated $2 million to build and furnish cabins and a multipurpose building at the Wilds. The gift will serve two purposes: provide a retreat for veterans grappling with post-combat stress, and make the Wilds more accessible to traveling families and small groups. The cabin complex will also provide another revenue stream for the Wilds’ conservation and education efforts. This gift, the single largest private donation the Wilds has received, is the second significant donation from the Strakers who also established the first veterinary clinic at the conservation center.

The gift, directed by both Mr. Straker and the J.W. and M.H. Straker Charitable Foundation, will be used to construct seven cabins, each with two or three bedrooms, a kitchenette, small living room and a bathroom. The complex will also include a lodge containing a classroom/multi-purpose room, a commercial kitchen, laundry and restrooms. The site is located on the newly named Straker Lake.

Mr. Straker’s primary aim in donating the funds for the cabins and lodge is to provide The Mighty Oaks Warrior Program, a non-profit organization, its first location in Ohio and the Midwest to conduct its programming designed to heal the life-threatening psychological wounds many veterans face. Mr. Straker said in reference to this gift, “I have lived long enough to have a chance to join others in helping veterans achieve a better life for themselves and their families.”

The Mighty Oaks Warrior Program, headquartered in Temecula, California, was created in response to the reported veteran suicide rate of 23 deaths per day. Through classes, group work, and recreational activities, the program aims to help high-risk veterans. In its five years of programming, The Mighty Oaks is proud to report a zero percent suicide rate among its over 1,100 graduates. The program currently hosts programs in California, Texas, Virginia, Montana and Oklahoma.

“We fly people from all over the country to attend the programs, but we’ve learned that the closer the program to the student’s home, the greater the success,” said Jeremy Stalnecker, Mighty Oaks executive director. “The Midwest is an area we have not yet tapped into, and we are excited to have a facility in Ohio, which is near so many major cities. And the Wilds fits our criteria perfectly.”

“The Wilds provides a remote and yet comfortable environment for the students to engage in program activities including nature hikes, horseback riding and fishing”, said Tom Stalf, President and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and the Wilds. “We are honored to have received this generous gift that enables us to participate in this inspiring cause.”

The new accommodations are expected to be available by spring 2018. Mighty Oaks students will occupy the cabins a total of six weeks of the year; the cabins will be open to the public all other days.

Greater one-horned rhino born at the Wilds

Cumberland, OH— A greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) – a species that nearly went extinct in the 20th century – was born at the Wilds conservation center. The newborn was discovered the early morning of Nov. 11, and is receiving expert care from his mother. This is the seventh greater one-horned rhino to be born at the Wilds.

“Rhino conservation has come a long way in the past 100 years, but there is still work to be done,” said Daniel Beetem, director of animal management at the Wilds. “Rhinos continue to be poached for the misconception that their horns have medicinal value, when the horns are the chemical equivalent of human fingernails. Rhinos also face the imminent danger of declining habitat quality. We are proud to help keep this incredible species alive through our breeding program at the Wilds.”

The calf and his mom, Sanya, are doing well and have been bonding in the barn on the Wilds property. The animal care team has been monitoring the pair closely, but has not needed to provide any immediate assistance to the experienced mother. Calves usually weigh more than 100 pounds at birth and gain a few pounds every day. An adult greater one-horned rhino can reach weights of about 4,000 to 6,000 pounds.

Sanya, born in Toronto in 1999, has now given birth to four calves since arriving at the Wilds in 2004. The father, Rustum, was born at a zoo in India and imported to the United States in 2007 in an attempt to bring genetic diversity to the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). This newborn is Rustum’s fifth offspring.

The Wilds, home to four greater one-horned rhinos, is one of only 26 facilities in North America to care for this species. The Wilds is also home to 13 southern white rhinos. In total, more than 500 animals representing 29 species from around the world make up the animal population at the open-range, natural landscape at the Wilds.

Once listed as an endangered species, the greater one-horned rhino have seen a steady population increase thanks to strict government protection. According to the World Wildlife Fund, there were only 600 individuals surviving in their native ranges of India and Nepal by 1975. Since then, researchers estimate the population has grown to exceed 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos living in these areas.

The Wilds is currently closed for the season, but visitors can get a chance to see the newborn on a Winter Wildside Tour. The classic Wilds tours will return May 2017.

ZOO MOURNS LOSS OF KULINDA, ENDANGERED BLACK RHINO

Powell, OH— The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is mourning the loss of Kulinda, a black rhinoceros, whose health had recently declined, on Feb. 3

More than a year ago, Kulinda was diagnosed with iron overload syndrome. This syndrome has been documented in black rhinos and results in progressive liver failure. Animal health staff and animal care staff have worked together to manage her health care. Due to her declining condition and poor prognosis, she was humanely euthanized this morning. Following Zoo protocol, a complete postmortem exam will be completed, and full results will be received in several weeks.

At 28 years old, Kulinda exceeded the median life expectancy (18.3 years) of black rhinos in North American zoos by a decade.

Fans might best remember Kulinda Kifaru (Kifaru means “rhino” in Swahili) as the rhino to whom they fed apple slices during a Keeper Talk, or who used her prehensile upper lip to create unique paintings through the animal enrichment program. A life-long Ohio resident, Kulinda was born at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden on Oct. 19, 1988 and came to the Columbus Zoo the next year.

“Kulinda exemplified what it means to be an animal ambassador at the Columbus Zoo,” said President and CEO Tom Stalf. “She brought people face-to-face with a species that could become extinct in our lifetime if we aren’t inspired to act now, and gave many people a reason to care about rhino conservation. Connecting people with wildlife is the Columbus Zoo’s mission, and Kulinda was a huge part of that effort.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the black rhino (Diceros bicornis) as critically endangered. Sadly, large-scale poaching reportedly caused a dramatic 98 percent population collapse in less than 40 years – the greatest rate of decline estimated among all rhino species. Adding to the tragedy is that poaching is fueled by a misconception that a rhino horn carries medicinal benefits when, in fact, it is composed mostly of keratin – commonly found in hair or fingernails.

But there have been signs of hope. The IUCN reports that countries where investments in conservation programming have been made – including monitoring and law enforcement – have shown increases in black rhino populations. The Columbus Zoo has been a proud supporter of such programs. In the past five years, the Zoo has donated nearly $200,000 to rhino conservation projects, including providing support to the International Rhino Foundation. As an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the Columbus Zoo is also an active participant in the AZA’s Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program, of which the black rhino is one of 10 signature species.

Kulinda is survived by Rosie, the Zoo’s other black rhino, as well as Klyde, one of Kulinda’s two calves she delivered while living at the Columbus Zoo. Klyde was born in 2002 and currently lives at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, KS. The Zoo will work with the AZA’s Species Survival Plan® (SSP) program regarding the future of receiving additional black rhinos at the Zoo.

Statement About Rhino Poaching at Zoo in France

Powell, OH—According to recent (March 8) media reports, poachers killed a male white rhinoceros and removed the horn at the Thoiry Zoo, located outside of Paris, France. In response, Tom Stalf, president and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and The Wilds, issued the following statement:

“The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and The Wilds—along with other conservation organizations across the world—are saddened to hear of the tragic killing of a young male white rhinoceros at the Thoiry Zoo. The incident served not only as a somber reminder of the dangers facing this endangered species and others but also the importance of the protocols we have in place, including those regarding security. The safety of the animals in our care is of utmost priority, and it is our policy not to share details of our security procedures and practices as doing so would make them less effective. With more than two million guests who visit annually, we also encourage our visitors to follow the rule, ‘See something, say something,’ and notify our staff if anything is observed to be unusual or a potential threat.”

Additional Information:

The incident was a somber reminder of the important and necessary role that the Columbus Zoo, The Wilds, and other accredited facilities have in saving rhinos and other endangered species from poachers and other factors that threaten the future of the world’s wildlife. Poaching has reached an all-time high for rhino horn, which is seen as a status symbol, and is used in traditional Asian medicine, despite there being no evidence that proves its medicinal value. In fact, the horn consists of keratin, the same substance that makes up fingernails and hair. Only 29,000 rhinos remain in their native ranges in Africa and Asia – less than the population of a small town.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium contributes $4 million annually to worldwide efforts to save animals including the support of organizations, such as the International Rhino Foundation, that focus on protecting the five species of rhinos. As this horrific act demonstrates, rhinos need the help and protection of conservation organizations now more than ever.

About the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 600 species from around the globe, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium leads and inspires by connecting people and wildlife. The Zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Course. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also operates the Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a regional attraction with global impact; annually contributing more than $4 million of privately raised funds to support conservation projects worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating.

About The Wilds

The Wilds, one of the largest conservation centers in North America, is home to rare and endangered animals from around the world along with hundreds of indigenous species. The mission of the Wilds, a nonprofit organization, is to advance conservation through science, education and personal experience. The Wilds is located at 14000 International Road in Cumberland, Ohio, about 90 minutes east of Columbus. Normal hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day from May through September, and on Saturdays and Sundays in October. For more information, visit www.thewilds.org.

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Staff Reports

MUSKINGUM COUNTY RESIDENT’S DONATION

FUNDS VETERANS’ RETREAT, CABINS AT THE WILDS

Cumberland, OH—Zanesville resident and World War II veteran, J. W. Straker (Bill) has donated $2 million to build and furnish cabins and a multipurpose building at the Wilds. The gift will serve two purposes: provide a retreat for veterans grappling with post-combat stress, and make the Wilds more accessible to traveling families and small groups. The cabin complex will also provide another revenue stream for the Wilds’ conservation and education efforts. This gift, the single largest private donation the Wilds has received, is the second significant donation from the Strakers who also established the first veterinary clinic at the conservation center.

The gift, directed by both Mr. Straker and the J.W. and M.H. Straker Charitable Foundation, will be used to construct seven cabins, each with two or three bedrooms, a kitchenette, small living room and a bathroom. The complex will also include a lodge containing a classroom/multi-purpose room, a commercial kitchen, laundry and restrooms. The site is located on the newly named Straker Lake.

Mr. Straker’s primary aim in donating the funds for the cabins and lodge is to provide The Mighty Oaks Warrior Program, a non-profit organization, its first location in Ohio and the Midwest to conduct its programming designed to heal the life-threatening psychological wounds many veterans face. Mr. Straker said in reference to this gift, “I have lived long enough to have a chance to join others in helping veterans achieve a better life for themselves and their families.”

The Mighty Oaks Warrior Program, headquartered in Temecula, California, was created in response to the reported veteran suicide rate of 23 deaths per day. Through classes, group work, and recreational activities, the program aims to help high-risk veterans. In its five years of programming, The Mighty Oaks is proud to report a zero percent suicide rate among its over 1,100 graduates. The program currently hosts programs in California, Texas, Virginia, Montana and Oklahoma.

“We fly people from all over the country to attend the programs, but we’ve learned that the closer the program to the student’s home, the greater the success,” said Jeremy Stalnecker, Mighty Oaks executive director. “The Midwest is an area we have not yet tapped into, and we are excited to have a facility in Ohio, which is near so many major cities. And the Wilds fits our criteria perfectly.”

“The Wilds provides a remote and yet comfortable environment for the students to engage in program activities including nature hikes, horseback riding and fishing”, said Tom Stalf, President and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and the Wilds. “We are honored to have received this generous gift that enables us to participate in this inspiring cause.”

The new accommodations are expected to be available by spring 2018. Mighty Oaks students will occupy the cabins a total of six weeks of the year; the cabins will be open to the public all other days.

More information about the Columbus Zoo is available at ColumbusZoo.org and on social media (@ColumbusZoo on Facebook and Twitter, @Columbus_Zoo on Instagram).

More information about the Columbus Zoo is available at ColumbusZoo.org and on social media (@ColumbusZoo on Facebook and Twitter, @Columbus_Zoo on Instagram).

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