Arrival prompted by Fort Worth Zoo’s habitat renovation, species survival plan recommendation

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is happy to announce the arrival of two Indian rhinos to its Sanctuary Asia habitat. The duo, Arun and Shanti, arrived Wednesday, February 20, from the Fort Worth Zoo as that facility prepares for extensive renovations to their Asian species habitat. Their relocation was also recommended by the Indian rhino species survival plan (SSP). SSP programs were developed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to help oversee breeding management and sustainability of select animal species within AZA-member institutions like the OKC Zoo and Fort Worth Zoo.

“We are thrilled to welcome these wonderful animals to the OKC Zoo,” said Rachel Emory, curator of pachyderms. “Not only are we glad to help our neighbors to the south as they upgrade their facilities, but we are also excited about the possible pairing of Arun and Niki, our 12-year-old female rhino.”

Arun, 29, is described by Fort Worth Zoo caretakers as “very curious” and as “loving attention”. He is very active in his outdoor habitat and enjoys oranges and bananas. He weighs over 3,800 pounds – almost two tons! The female, Shanti, is 32 and a bit shyer than Arun. She loves enrichment activities, especially puzzle feeders and tires, and eating banana leaves. Shanti is more svelte than her fellow new arrival, weighing in at only 3,600 pounds.

Arun and Shanti join Niki in the rhino habitat at Sanctuary Asia. Niki came to the OKC Zoo in 2009 from the Bronx Zoo in New York. In 2014, she gave birth to Rupert, who now resides at Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Indiana. The new rhinos will be outside only periodically during the next two weeks as they acclimate to their environment. According to the AZA, the median life expectancy for Indian rhinos is 30.4 years. Because Arun and Shanti are geriatric members of their species, the OKC Zoo will likely be their forever home.

How the Oklahoma City Zoo Helps Rhinos

The OKC Zoo’s American Association of Zookeepers (AAZK) chapter has raised more than $350,000 for rhinos through its fundraising efforts since 1990. In 2018, the OKC Zoo selected the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) as one of its two major conservation initiative partners. IRF focuses its efforts on protecting vulnerable Indian rhinos and critically endangered black, Javan and Sumatran rhinos. These efforts include funding and training anti-poaching teams and translocating rhinos from overcrowded, protected areas to new protected areas, so that the population can grow. Native to India and Nepal, Indian rhinos are currently listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Through conservation programs, populations over the past century have recovered from under 200 to approximately 2,600 today. However, there is a continuing decline in the quality of their natural habitat and the species continues to be illegally hunted for its horn.

Spring into the OKC Zoo and discover its latest thick-skinned arrivals! Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Regular admission is $11 for adults and $8 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Stay up-to-date with the Zoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and by visiting Our Stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming Oklahoma Zoological Society members at or in-person at the Zoo!