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Crate expectations for roving rhinos

The rhinos were coaxed into the crates with food rewards.

The rhinos were coaxed into the crates with food rewards. Credit:Zoos Victoria

Werribee Zoo general manager of life sciences, Russel Traher, said the two massive beasts were trained to enter reinforced steel “rhino crates” which were brought in specially from South Africa.

“We trained the rhinos to enter on their own accord using food to get them feeling nice and comfortable,” Mr Traher said. “The main aim was to give the rhinos as much choice and control as possible, and to keep them calm.

“They can get agitated.”

First, the rhinos were trained to touch their snouts to a tennis ball attached to the end of a pole to get a food reward.

Eventually, they learned to associate the tennis ball with a tasty treat and would head wherever they could see the ball.

Mr Traher said once the rhinos were accustomed to the crates, cranes were used to lift the three-tonne behemoths on to trucks with auto-levelling suspension provided by a specialist racehorse company.

“At least they’re not tall like a giraffe,” he said. “With them, you have to worry about power lines and stuff.”

The next step was to plan out multiple routes in case traffic was bad, because the last thing you’d want is a rhino with road rage.

The operation went off without a hitch on Wednesday. It’s not known if the travellers used their horns as the trucks passed each other, but Kapamba and Kifaru have now landed safely in their new homes.

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