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Rhin-o you like me?

Wednesday, 19th February, 2020 3:57pm

Fota Wildlife Park has welcomed a new inhabitant who will participate in their conservation work as part of the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme.

The seven year old female Indian rhino, named Maya, arrived from the Botanical Garden Branféré Zoo, near Nantes in France.

Maya has been brought to Fota to participate in a breeding programme alongside male seven year old resident Indian rhino, Jamil. The rangers hope to gradually nurture a relationship between the pair that will help conserve the species. Also known as the greater one-horned rhino, the species are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Speaking about Maya’s arrival, Lead Ranger Aidan Rafferty said: “Maya is already settling in incredibly well. The captive breeding of Indian rhino involves careful selection and control of the genetics by a studbook manager, in practical terms, we hope that this pair will get on very well together. So far the signs are good. While they have not been introduced to each other directly, they can see and smell each other across their neighbouring paddocks and they both seem to have a very healthy interest in each other.”

Originally born in Rotterdam Zoo, Maya weighs 1,800kg, and is the only female Indian rhino residing in an Irish zoological organisation. Rhinoceroses are the largest land mammals after the elephant and are made up of five species, two African and three Asian.

While both Maya and Jamil currently weigh 1,800kg each, a fully-grown adult can weigh up to 2,200kg, which is over two tonnes in weight. In terms of conservation, the situation has improved for the Indian rhino which, like the other species, was under threat from poaching, in particular for their horn, and habitat loss. The wild population has gradually grown in the last 100 years across the Indian subcontinent from 1,800 in the early 1990s to over 2,500 in 2019.

“Looking after and introducing a potential breeding pair, such as these Indian rhino, is a very specialised process. They both will be allowed to get to know each other from a very safe distance and depending on how well that is going, we then plan to move the pair closer together and we hope they will produce a baby rhino in the next few years as the eventual outcome,” concluded Aiden.

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