When “Stubby” the rhino moves around the African Watering Hole, the zebras and ostriches get out of his way. He is 5,000 pounds of muscle and might. He stands six feet at the shoulder and his head alone, with its two very prominent horns, weighs about 2,000 pounds. He is a southern white rhino, the largest of all rhinos and the third largest land animal in the world, dwarfed only by African and Asian elephants.
Stubby has lived at the Maryland Zoo since he was three years old. Now 26, he is a fully mature bull. He may look like a prehistoric tank, but like all rhinos, he is intelligent and social. If he were roaming the grasslands of Africa, he would want to associate himself with a “crash” – a group of related female rhinos and their offspring. Under the right circumstances, he might also belong to a bachelor herd of male rhinos.
Here at the Zoo, Stubby has always had a rhino companion. For the past year, he has been on his own, but the Zoo has been coordinating carefully with the AZA’s Species Survival Plan for Southern White Rhinos to ensure that he soon has new and appropriate companionship for a male rhino his age. The date is not yet certain, but the plan is now in place.
Stubby will be moving to a private wildlife conservancy in Florida that cares for a large herd of southern white rhinos. There, for the first time, he will have the opportunity to breed. This will be a significant and positive development not only in his bachelor life but also for his species. Southern white rhinos are classified as “near threatened” by the IUCN, the world’s leading conservation organization. Their numbers have improved significantly since the early 20th century when they were thought to be extinct, but their future in the wild is far from guaranteed.
The Zoo will certainly miss Stubby, but he is moving on to an exciting next chapter in his life. Meanwhile, we will continue to care for this remarkable species. After Stubby leaves, two young males will arrive – not to take his place, but to make their own mark on the African Watering Hole.