LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. — Starting Tuesday, Lion Country is going to join a national rhino research project called the AIRS (American Institute of Rhino Science) program.
"The purpose of this research program is to make recommendations to how we can address Rhino care for the long-term survival of the species and the self-sustaining reproduction of the species," said spokesperson Haley McCann
In the near future, some of the rhinos will wear fitness trackers.
"They will be wearing fitness trackers or activity trackers to determine how active they are, how they make use of their space, and how that contributes to their overall health," said McCann.
The rhinos will track whether or not "they are getting their steps in" and "closing their rings."
"The fitness tracker strap is actually break away. So if it does get caught up on anything, it will break right off. And we'll also be going through a desensitization stage where we get the rhinos use of feeling that strap on their ankle and won't really let them out into the [safari] until they're comfortable wearing it," McCann said.
"We'll see how much of their days spent actively moving around and grazing, how far they go, how much space they utilize to walk around and their day-to-day and use that type of information to see how it contributes to the overall health and how it contributes to their body condition. their size, their weight, and how that plays into the reproduction," McCann said.
Lion Country Safari has 15 southern white rhinos. The youngest, Josh, is less than one-year-old and the oldest is Buck (he is off on an island on his own so the ladies don't beat him up).
Lion Country Safari Fun Facts
- AIRS program aims to address challenges facing rhino management to ensure healthy populations under human care that can act as a safety net from extinction.
- The program is multi-disciplinary to address main research pillars, including physical fitness and reproduction.
- To identify which measures of health are most closely related to physical fitness, activity trackers and heart rate recordings will be compared to physical assessments and blood tests. Goal is also to identify which factors may contribute to decreased physical health and reproductive success for the long-term survival of the species.
- Lion Country Safari is starting with reproduction monitoring research tomorrow, July 12, using blood and fecal tests.
- Lion Country Safari will also participate in physical assessments, temperament, husbandry, and health surveys, etc.
- There are five species of rhino, white and black which are endemic to Africa, and three species native to Asia (Javan, Sumatran and Indian rhinos).
- Lion Country Safari has had 38 rhinos born at the park since the late 1970’s.
- Southern white rhinos are the most abundant species of rhino but all are threatened and in decline due to poaching.