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San Diego Zoo Safari Park rhino's broken toe on the mend with new cast

The park's animal care specialists noticed the injury to the rhino, named Maoto, during a routine check-up last month.
Credit: Ken Bohn, photographer, San Diego Zoo Safari Park
A team of nearly 40 San Diego Zoo Global veterinarians and animal care specialists gathered, Dec. 19, 2019, at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center to put a new cast on the foot of a 4,500-pound southern white rhino named Maoto, to help mend a broken toe. Last month during a routine morning check, animal care specialists noticed Maoto was not putting weight on his front left foot. They called Safari Park veterinarians, who conducted an examination and discovered Maoto had a broken toe—and he needed a cast on it, to help it heal. The procedure performed this week was the third casting procedure the team has performed on Maoto. The animal care team worked quickly to anesthetize him, make him comfortable during the procedure, remove his current cast, obtain new radiographs of the fractured toe and perform an overall health assessment. They determined that Maoto’s toe showed evidence of proper healing, but it still needed a new cast. Maoto resides at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center, where he is an important contributor to San Diego Zoo Global’s efforts to help save endangered rhino species from extinction. On any given day, visitors to the Safari Park may be able to see one or more of the southern white rhinos living at the Center from the Africa Tram.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diego Zoo Global announced Monday that a team of nearly 40 veterinarians fitted a new cast on one of the Safari Park's southern white rhinos to mend a broken toe.

The park's animal care specialists noticed the injury to the rhino, named Maoto, during a routine check-up last month. Safari Park veterinarians confirmed the break with an X-ray examination and elected to place a cast on Maoto's foot.

They placed another cast on Maoto's foot this week after a follow-up, fortifying it with rubber tread from car tires to ensure it does not break under his weight. According to zoo officials, the 4,500-pound rhino's toe is showing signs of healing properly.

"During the past six weeks, Maoto has been able to move around easily and still maintain a positive demeanor through the entire process," lead keeper Jonnie Capiro said. "He's been an outstanding patient along the way!"

Maoto is a contributer to the zoo's longer-term goal of recovering the northern white rhino, a distant relative of the southern white rhino. Currently, only two northern white rhinos still exist on the planet and both are female. Maoto is the father of southern white rhino calf Edward, who was conceived via artificial insemination last year and born in July.

Zoo officials aim to use stem cells and preserved northern white rhino cells to birth a northern white rhino calf within 10-20 years. The zoo's southern white rhinos would serve as surrogates for the northern white rhino embryos through artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization or an embryo transfer.

If the plan proves successful, researchers could attempt similar assisted reproduction techniques with the critically endangered Sumatran and Javan rhinos.

Maoto and the rest of the Safari Park's southern white rhino herd can be viewed at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center from the park's Africa Tram.