The Glass City can once again be called home for a rhinoceros.
Aashish, a 3 1/2-year-old Indian rhino, arrived Thursday afternoon at the Toledo Zoo. He came here from the Wilds, a nearly 10,000-acre conservation center near Cumberland, Ohio — east of Columbus — under the umbrella of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Dr. Kirsten Thomas, a Toledo Zoo veterinarian, accompanied Aashish on the four-hour trip and said the process went very smoothly. The spunky youngster crated easily, but made sure to express himself during the loading process.
“He’s a young male, so he’s got all sorts of personality,” Dr. Thomas said. “Once they actually started closing him in [the crate] he starting having some opinions, but it was typical boy. Just wanted to show his thoughts, show his opinions. Totally mellowed out once he was loaded up.”
Toledo had been without a rhino since Sam, an elderly southern white rhinoceros, died in October. His older female companion, Lulu, died in her sleep in August of 2016. The Toledo Zoo now owns Aashish and he will remain here for the foreseeable future.
Dr. Thomas gave Aashish a light sedative to “take the edge off” as a precaution and safety measure before his crate was unloaded by forklift from a flatbed trailer. The shot ensured the approximately 3,000 pound animal would remain calm and not endanger himself or people nearby by thrashing around inside the crate or rushing out of it.
“A lot of times after they’ve been in that tight of an enclosed space, they’re ready to go and want to get out and get all amped up,” the veterinarian said. “I want him to come out nice and slow and have a few seconds to figure out his surroundings as opposed to jumping out.”
Once the crate was off the truck, Dr. Thomas peered inside and noted Aashish had simply continued to nonchalantly munch on hay throughout the noisy process.
The moving crew positioned the crate at a door into the rhino barn at Tembo Trail and Aashish was encouraged to back out into his new indoor holding space. One of his keepers from the Wilds traveled with him and is assisting with getting him settled here.
Several staff members from the zoo traveled to the Wilds earlier this month to meet Aashish, see the facility where he was born and raised, and discuss the various factors of his care.
Michael Frushour, curator of mammals, said the rhino will be visible to the public Friday. He will remain in the indoor viewing area of the exhibit for a while to allow him to adjust before he will be introduced to the outdoor space.
“We’re going to try and work and see how soon we can get him outside on exhibit for everyone. But it really depends on him,” Mr. Frushour said. “We’re going to take it really slow and let him sort of just get used to things.”
Aashish is active and should make use of every square foot of his new home, including the moat that surrounds the outdoor enclosure.
“He’s a young rhino so we know he’s going to try to test his boundaries and kind of figure everything out on the exhibit,” Mr. Frushour said.
The Indian rhino is a new species for the zoo. Officials previously said they decided to switch species of rhino from the African variety to the Asian one to better suit the weather in northwest Ohio. Aashish will be able to use the outdoor exhibit for longer periods of time.
The youngster still has a considerable amount of growing to do. Dr. Thomas said he could weigh 5,000 to 6,000 pounds fully grown.
“He’s very cute,” she said. “He’s still got a bit of a baby face.”
Indian rhinos are primarily solitary animals. Mr. Frushour said previously the zoo may eventually obtain a female companion for him for potential breeding, though there have been no discussions on that possibility at this point.
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