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New rhino experience coming in 2018

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications

Wildlife trafficking continues to put species on the brink of extinction—globally and locally. This is why we stand with the community in their commitment to end illegal wildlife trade. In spring 2018, one of the world’s most iconic symbols of poaching is coming to the zoo: rhinos.

This will mark the first time rhinoceros will be at our institution in its 118-year history.

Greater one-horned rhinoceros. Credit: Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Greater one-horned rhinoceros, Asian brown tortoises, and demoiselle cranes will be showcased in the Assam Rhino Reserve, a new, temporary exhibit that will amplify attention on the cruelty of poaching, the illegal trade and the turtle extinction crisis.

In November of 2015, Washington state passed an historic citizen’s initiative for endangered species. Initiative 1401 made Washington the first state in the country to help save 10 endangered animal species groups from extinction by a vote of the people. We knew that Washingtonians were passionate about their own pets and protecting wild animals in PNW forests, plains and the Puget Sound, but 1401 made it clear—Washington loves wildlife around the world, and we’re willing to do something about it.

“One million people in our community came together to make it clear—we stand for saving species,” says Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO Alejandro Grajal, PhD. “Rhinos are not only impressive animals by virtue of their massive size and charisma, but are iconic symbols of illegal wildlife trafficking. While there is recent good news about the greater one-horned rhino making a recovery, the five surviving species of rhinos still face a precarious future. Bringing rhinos to the zoo allows us to tell a powerful conservation story about hope—the vast network of partners, including zoos, that is focused on saving the greater one-horned rhino and the need to continue working to protect all rhino species.”

Greater one-horned rhinos are mostly solitary animals except for moms with young or sub-adults or adult males gathering at wallows or to graze. Credit: Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Although Washington state passed I-1401 with overwhelming voter support, the fight to stop wildlife trafficking in the U.S. is far from over. Right now the federal government is considering amendments to the Endangered Species Act, which may impact the U.S.’s ability to enforce wildlife trafficking laws. When critical needs for action arise, the exhibit will prominently feature ways for zoo guests to make their voices known to lawmakers. “Never has there been a more critical time to energize people—of all ages—into action. This is the time to spark a social movement that harnesses a community of people who will channel their awe and love of these animals into taking meaningful action to stop wildlife trafficking and bring back rhinos and other imperiled species from the brink of extinction without losing hope,” says Grajal.

Five species of rhinos survive today: black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan. In the last 200 years, the rhino population has plummeted from one million to fewer than 30,000 worldwide.

Guests will see many natural behaviors of this water-loving species including wallowing in mud, grazing on land, immersing in a shallow pool and nibbling on aquatic plants along the edge of the pool. Credit: Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Also known as the Indian rhino, the greater one-horned is second in size only to the white rhino, weighing 4,000 to 6,000 pounds. It has a single horn that is about 8 to 25 inches long; a gray-brown hide with skin folds gives it an armor-plated appearance. Once found across the entire northern part of the Indian subcontinent, the population plummeted due to sport hunting, human conflict, poaching for their horns for use in traditional medicine and habitat loss. Because of conservation efforts by government and NGOs working together, World Wildlife Fund said the population has increased from as few as 350 animals just a few decades ago to more than 3,500 by 2015 in the Terai Arc Landscape of India and Nepal, and the grasslands of Assam and north Bengal in northeast India.

In addition to the two rhinos, Asian brown tortoise and demoiselle cranes will make their home in the Assam Rhino Reserve. 

Demoiselle crane, photo by Dennis Dow, WPZ.

Asian brown tortoise, photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, WPZ.
A male and female Asian brown tortoise pair has been living at the zoo in temporary housing on grounds since they were displaced by the fire in the Day and Night Exhibit. “More than one half of the world’s turtle species are threatened with extinction,” says Jennifer Pramuk, PhD. “Everyone likes turtles and this new experience will not disappoint. Zoo guests will learn how they can take meaningful action at home to help turtles, particularly species in Asia where they continue to be overharvested for food and captured for the illegal pet trade.” 

The zoo has a long history of caring for cranes, such as the endangered red-crowned and white-naped, and has a successful breeding program. The demoiselle crane returns to the zoo since the species was last cared for here in 2009. The beautiful bird will offer guests more opportunities for an inside look at the zoo’s long and active partnership supporting field conservation for other crane species in eastern Russia.

To support rhino conservation and donate to Assam Rhino Reserve, visit


Unknown said…
OMG I can't wait till 2018 is here I have always wanted rhinos at the Woodland Park Zoo since I was little love rhinos
Jelle Boef said…
Nice new development for the WP Zoo!

Two questions though: What is exactly meant by temporary and where will the exhibit be sited?
elizabeth said…
thank you ! this is wonderful news as Rhinos are in such great peril. I know you shall take good care of them. May many be wowed, intrigued & impressed by the Gentle Giant; one of the most marvelous creatures throughout the ages.
Steph said…
They will be in the old elephant exhibit, and last I read, they would be at Woodland Park Zoo for a couple of years.