Classroom Connections: Feed a rhinoceros at Utah's Hogle Zoo

By Heather Tuttle

Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, June 17 2014 2:40 p.m. MDT

Marquel Whetton pets a rhinoceros at Utah's Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Rhinos slobber when they eat. Not the “you just woke up and your pillow is sort of damp from your mouth hanging open all night” kind of drool. We’re talking "2-foot long strands of goo, use a mop to wipe your mouth" amount of slobber. They are noisy eaters as well. They take lip smacking to a whole new level.

After more than a year of training two white rhinos, siblings George and Princess, Utah’s Hogle Zoo is ready to let anyone 12 years or older purchase the opportunity to get up close to the second-largest land mammal. If you do, you will discover what it feels like to touch — as well as feed — them. Their hides are rough and covered in mud. Their ears are like a piece of thick soft leather, and under the folds of skin they are surprisingly soft.

The experience isn’t just fun, it’s educational, too. Primary elephant and rhino keeper Lauren LeCoque and elephant manager Eric Peterson took time to answer a few questions about these amazing beasts that were submitted to Deseret News from kids ages 4 and older.

Can a rhino regrow its horn? — Clive, 5

No. It cannot. There is so much that you can take it down, but it is not like an antler that they will shed and it is regrown. It is attached to the rhino’s head. It will grow 1 to 3 inches a year.

How big do their horns get? — Jackson, 5

It depends on the rhino. A male’s will have a thicker base. Size depends on how the rhino plays with its environment.

Why do they have horns? — Stan, 11

It is for protection. If a lion comes after a rhino, that is what they will use for protection.

What does the rhinoceros want for dinner? — Maya, 4

Their diet consists mostly of hay. They get about a full bale a day. And I try to come out once or twice a day with fresh produce for them: apples, oranges, bananas. They each eat about 100 pounds of food a day.

They drink about 10-15 gallons of water a day.

How long do baby rhinos stay with their moms? — Zion, 11

Usually about three years.

How big are their babies when they are born? — Alyssa, 7

Babies are anywhere between 100 and 160 pounds.

How long are they pregnant? — Heather

16 months

How fast can a rhino run? — Owen, 9

About 20-25 miles per hour.

How do they run? — Ben, 8

The cool thing about these guys is they single track. If you looked at each foot, it would be in alignment in a single line.

How much do rhinos weigh? — Amelia, 7

White rhinos are the largest species (of rhinos). Males average about 5,000 pounds.

How big are their teeth and what color are they? — Jackson, 5

They are brownish and have 24 flat molars. One tooth is a couple of inches in diameter.

Does the zoo brush their teeth? — Sean, 9

We don’t. The food that they are eating takes a lot of the plaque off.

Are they nice or mean? — Jackson, 5

They are very nice. Rhinos get a bad rap for being mean, but they are pretty nice.

How long does a rhino live? — Jackson, 5

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