Thursday, March 1, 2012

Keepin' It Real for Rhinos

A while back, in our “Chillin’ with the Rhinos” post (see our archive to follow-up!), we told you about what it might be like to really get inside Lincoln Park Zoo…

In this particular entry, we explained that “unless you're a visiting scientist, or working on behalf of science, animal welfare or conservation, it's nearly impossible to get behind the scenes on a summer day at Lincoln Park Zoo. “

Well…in a way we were right, and in a way we were down right wrong. Since we posted “Chillin’ with the Rhinos” in 2010, we have continued to work with the rhinos at LPZ, and we have made many changes! While you still can’t get behind the scenes and actually meet the beasts, you can do the next best thing and get a closer look at the giant black rhinoceros now on exhibit at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Just this spring the interactive exhibit designed by Museum Explorer opened at the Zoo, providing visitors with a fantastic opportunity to learn all about what it takes to care for this nearly extinct wild animal.

The zoo recently renovated the former Elephant Yard (the premier north exhibit yard) with an expansive Black Rhinoceros Exhibit and African landscape. This newly enhanced habitat is more than twice the size of the former rhinoceros exhibit, and provides enormous flexibility for breeding and housing a family group of this highly endangered species, while highlighting the zoo’s important mission to protect these animals in their native habitats. And in order to help enhance visitor understanding and in an effort to build a bridge between visitor and zoo-keeper, Museum Explorer worked with the Zoo’s education department to design an interactive component. Camera shaped spotting scopes allow visitors to watch and observe the rhinos closely, much like scientists in the field do. This feature also teaches visitors how programs at the zoo are designed, while learning how to preserve these great animals in the wild.

The exhibit features interesting tidbits about personalized Black Rhino care, including how to file its giant toe nails, that it takes a bucket of hand lotion a day to keep its skin in top flight condition and that vitamins are as much a part of its diet as they are ours.

The Black Rhino Display also features the not-so-elegant but absolutely essential part of zoo-keeping – CLEAN UP time. Did you know that the average full-grown male Black Rhino will deposit 80 to 100 pounds of dung a day? Five poops a day…that’s 20 pounds a crack--pun intended! Our new exhibit gives you a chance to see if you can measure up and muscle up to the task of being a Zookeeper. Just grab the handle of the shovel and you can put your shoulder against a 20 lb weight, equal to one trip to the Rhino Restroom….if you know what I mean!

While features such as these keep the exhibit fun and interactive, the message behind it all is communicating to the public what kind of work it takes to keep a rhino alive in the wild. Right here at Lincoln Park Zoo and at zoos everywhere, biologists, zoologists, even museum people are constantly working to ensure that animals like the Black Rhino will survive in nature due in part to efforts put forth by programs and researchers that work at places like LPZ.

Oh…ooops…and before we forget! Even though you still can’t reach out and touch the Rhinos directly, we have provided a full sized completely to scale realistic and touchable version of the Rhino for people to enjoy. Now you can get up close in personal with a Rhino from tip of the horn to end of its tail. See our pictures for a sneak peek!

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