Posts Tagged With: Potter Park Zoo

Rhino Horn Use #24: Snow Shovel

Here in the midwest US, we’ve been in the shadow of a very long winter going on 3 months now.  Enduring record low temps and high snow fall amounts, the midwinter blues seem to be settling in on the animals just as much as the people.

The Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Michigan is home to two very antsy, energetic black rhinos: Jello and Doppsee.


Rhino boma in summer and now.

It’s too cold and icy most days for them to be outside safely. So in the midst of this so-called polar vortex, the team at the zoo busy themselves with indoor enrichment activities for the duo to keep them occupied. (See previous posts:  In Love with Jello and Doppsee’s Day)

But on the rare above zero temp days, they’re treated to some fresh air. Here’s Doppsee enjoying the snow (or maybe trying to help us get rid of it):

WATCH: Doppsee’s Snow Day

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Doppsee’s Day

For World Rhino Day, I spent the day with Doppsee and the staff of the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Mi.Me n Dop

Doppsee is one of the two black rhinos there. (See previous post: In Love with Jello)  Unlike my meeting with her roomie Jello, she is quite affectionate and seemed to enjoy the attention.

In addition to educational centers and a scavenger hunt, the zoo gave tours, allowing visitors what was probably a once-in-a-lifetime privilege of being up close and personal with a black rhino. It was dually educating and entertaining for adults and kids alike. Of course it was the most fun watching the kids’ faces light up when they saw Doppsee.

DSCF1686They learned about Doppsee’s favorite treats (peppermints and peanut butter), how she has learned basic training in order to have vet checks done, and most importantly how endangered her species is.

It is this kind of awareness that may help edge our rhinos closer to survival. The more they know, the more they care, and want to help.

The proceeds from the tours will benefit the International Rhino Foundation.

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In Love With Jello

They say you never forget your first love. Mine’s about 5 feet tall, has a bit of an attitude and a very dirty nose. The moment was magical; I called to him, he ignored me, looked up briefly, then turned away obviously unimpressed. But for me, I was in love.



Jello’s the first rhino I’ve officially met. Originally from Miami, he lives at the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing MI. The 9-year-old black rhino is  handsome (as rhinos go), and laid back. He is well cared for, and knows it. With an attitude remarkably similar to a cat, he comes to you in his own sweet time, but loves the attention once he gets it.


Zoo policy wouldn’t allow a “behind the scenes” photo, so to commemorate my moment-rhino dirt from rubbing Jello’s “sweet” spot!

Watching his giant prehensile lip grab for treats, feeling his smooth wrinkled face, and touching his horn, so much goes through my mind. This gentle giant, with no threats except from us, being exterminated for a body part. He is both unassuming and docile, yet emotes an awe-inspiring strength and beauty unlike any other creature, except maybe the elephant.

This poor sighted, massive beast who could lay me flat if he chose, has a weakness for having the spot right between his horns rubbed. As I discovered, after just a couple of minutes into obliging him, there’s a reason the keepers utilize a wire brush for this purpose. The skin is remarkably thick and tough there.


Doppsee’s favorite treat-peppermint patty.

Jello is not alone. A 6-year-old female, named Doppsee lives in an adjoined exhibit.  According to her keepers, this beautiful girl  is more loving, food motivated and skittish.

So skittish, that when the zoo installed a viewing window in the indoor exhibit, she was extremely fearful. The creative caretakers used a dummy outside the window, moving it every so often, to desensitize her to the new oddity in her home.

The zoo has plans to breed the pair via artificial insemination. Jello is prone to seizures, so for his safety, as well as Doppsees, this is the safer option. Like many other zoos housing rhinos, they are taking regular dung samples from Doppsee to analyze in hopes of finding the optimal time for conception. With a combination of behaviour monitoring and  the scientific analysis, hopefully there is a Jello Jr in the future.

To see more of Jello and Doppsee go to YouTube : The Fight for Rhinos

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