Getting to know Mumbles
If you’ve visited the Zoo in the past few months, you may have noticed one of the Zoo’s newest members, Mumbles the southern white rhino! Mumbles arrived in Atlanta back in May. The Hoofstock Team has really enjoyed this new addition to the department. One of my favorite parts about being an animal care professional is getting to know each individual animal’s personality.
It’s been really fun getting to know Mumbles! As a member of the Hoofstock Team, I get the unique opportunity to work with a variety of different species, anything from giraffes to zebras to warthogs to ostriches. As many are prey animals, most of the species I work with can be shy, reserved, and often skittish. From the minute Mumbles stepped out of his transport truck, I think we all knew that he was going to be a little different. He spent his first few minutes calmly walking around an outdoor space before choosing to check out his new indoor digs. The whole time remaining cool as a cucumber.
Not much has changed since then! He remains a very mild-mannered and laid-back presence in our department. Most days he can be found napping in his favorite shady spot in his outdoor habitat. However, as soon as he sees a keeper around his habitat, he is sure to pop up to come over and say hello. One of his favorite pastimes seems to be interacting with his care team. He loves a good scratch and will often start to fall asleep when we do any tactile work with him.
Now that he’s settled in, we’ve also begun doing a bit more training with him. Even though he has a calm disposition, we still have to be very careful when working around him … he is still very much a wild animal and weighs upwards of two tons. When training and interacting with him, we use what we call “protected contact.” This simply means that there is always a barrier between the keeper and Mumbles. Here at the Zoo, we use positive reinforcement to shape “behaviors” that make it easier to work with the animals and allows them to participate in their own care. He came to us with several behaviors that he already had down pat. Mumbles already knows how to target his nose to a target stick, back up, open his mouth on cue for mouth checks, and stand for voluntary blood draws from his ear! Since coming to Zoo Atlanta, he quickly learned how to step up and stand on a large scale platform so that we can get weights on him monthly. Over time, this list will only grow longer.
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I can’t wait to get to spend more time with the big guy and get to know him better! If you want to learn more about rhinos, be sure to tune in to our social media on September 22nd for International Rhino Day! Check out special activities you can do from home on our International Rhino Day page here on zooatlanta.org.
Keeper III, Mammals