Lansing — One of Potter Park Zoo’s main attractions is doubling in number; Doppsee, its rhino, is having a potential mate, Phineas, join her in the exhibit. A proposal to allow Chris Danhauer to transfer Phineas from the Caldwell Zoo in Texas was approved in the most recent Ingham County Commission meeting.The purpose of the move is to try and get the rhinos, an endangered species, to mate.
All rhinos in the United States are owned by the Species Survival Plan. The organization decided which rhinos get to breed with each other along with when it should happen. The reason it’s so selective is because it wants to keep endangered animals’ gene pool diverse. The Species Survival Plan views Doppsee and Phineas as valuable, genetically, and jumped at the chance to have the two meet.
“You don’t want inbreeding,” said Head Zookeeper Pat Fountain, “You don’t want too much of a certain animal to have too many babies because then they can’t breed on their own because they are related in one way or another.”
Both zoos and the Species Survival Plan are putting their trust in Danhauer, who is going to bring Phineas to Lansing. Danhauer has 18 years of experience transferring large animals, in fact, he brought Doppsee to Lansing. Moving a rhino safely for roughly 16 hours and 1,095 miles isn’t cheap; it will cost the county $8,784.
Just because things make sense doesn’t mean it will always work out.
“Males and females don’t live together,” said Cynthia Wagner the director of Potter Park Zoo.
This poses a challenge for the keepers. They will have to be very careful with how they manage these two.
“We will put them in a 30-day quarantine,” said Wagner, “We will wait till she is in estrus and then they will have a very monitored introduction.”
That’s not the main thing on Fountain’s mind. He’s more worried about the time.
“The problem is the wait. It takes 15 months gestation for a rhino to have a calf. So, even if they get along great, I still have to wait another year and a half almost for the baby to show up.”
Phineas was supposed to arrive to Lansing on April 3, but there were a few hiccups and the arrival date is unknown. The zoo is prepped and ready for Phineas’ arrival. Doppsee doesn’t know what’s in store for her in these upcoming months, but the zookeepers and the zoo goers are looking forward to him coming.