Monarto revives the zoo's links with rhinos going back to arrival of Mr Rhini in 1886

White rhinoceroses at Monarto Zoo.
Image courtesy ZoosSA

Monarto Zoo is working in a world first with The Australian Rhino Project to move 80 endangered southern white rhinoceros to Australia to safeguard the species while the poaching crisis in Africa is brought under control. Potentially Monarto Zoo could become home to around 30 rhinos starting in 2018.

But Adelaide Zoo’s experience with rhinos goes back to its start when the zoo’s first director R.E. Minchin paid £66 and brought Mr Rhini, a Javan rhinoceros, from Borneo, 1886.

When Mr Rhini arrived in Adelaide from Singapore in the mid 1880s, he was the only rhinoceros in Australia and was one of Adelaide’s zoo’s most popular attractions. He arrived in Adelaide with some buffaloes, lepers, tiger cats, alligators, an Indian tapir and a sun bear.

Mr Rhini, who died in 1907, was mistaken for an Indian rhino, until this was corrected by a professor at the South Australian Museum where the animal is now displayed. Mr Rhini's species is critically endangered, with less than 50 Javan rhinos in the wild in West Java, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Interest in Mr Rhini has been revived through a book by Geoff Brooks, author of Game in TransitA history of the Rhino in South Australia, and one of Monarto  Zoo’s longest-serving employees has been involved in the zoo’s 21st Century rhino program since the first white rhino Uhara arrived in 2000 from Singapore Zoo on a long-term breeding loan.

The dominant breeding bull Satara and other adult female Umquali arrived at Monarto Zoo in 2002 from the Kruger National Park in South Africa.
Uhura and Umquali are mothers to the five rhino calves born at the zoo. Kibibi (princess in Swahili) in 2012 was the first female calf born at the zoo.
Monarto Zoo in 2018 had six southern white rhinoceros and two black rhinoceros.

The Australian Rhino Project, working with Monarto and other Australian zoos, aims to maintain a viable population, with targeted genetics and demographics, to ultimately allow the African rhinoceros to go back to their natural habitat and homelands. More than 1,300 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone in 2017.

Zoos SA will have a 500-hectare enclosure for the white rhinos coming to the 1,500-hectare Monarto Zoo. The new rhinos will be sent to a third country for a quarantine period before they are moved to Australia.


Other related ADELAIDEAZ articles

Zoos membership hits 43,000; 600 volunteers backing 3000 animals and 250 full-time staff

Zoos SA in its 2016-17 record-breaking year for visitors also reached a record 46,000 members, with 600 volunteers, supporting its 3000 animals and 250 full-time employees at Adelaide and Monarto zoos. As a conservation charity, Zoos SA relies on this support to fund its vital conservation and breeding programs to save species from extinction. Besides the annual state government grant, corporate sponsorship for the zoos has also returned allowing them to operate on a surplus


Kangaroo Island's Emu Bay significant site for Cambrian fossils from 520 million years ago

Fossils found at Emu Bay on Kangaroo Island play a significant role the story of in the Cambrian period, a 53-million-years explosion of evolved life on Earth. The Emu Bay lower Cambrian shale has been dated at 520 million years old. Remains of creatures found at Big Gully near Emu Bay are notable as having the oldest with phosphatised muscle tissue and being well preserved. Emu Bay also produced Anomalocaris, A. briggsi, a new species of anomalocarids: flat, segmented predator animals with two grasping appendages in front of their mouths. At about 60cm long, A. briggsi, is one of the largest known animals from the Cambrian era. Big Gully offers evidence of its giant version of Anomalocaris preying on trilobites, the most common Cambrian fossils, including the well-preserved specimens of Hsuepsis bilobata and Redlichia takooensis (up to 25cm long, found in 1954 by Adelaide University geology lecturer Brain Daily). The wounds on a tribolite Naraoia from Big Gully offers the strongest evidence of bring preyed on by Anomalocaris. Other finds at Big Gully have included Xandarella (spider-like arthropod), Isoxys and Tuzoia (crustaceans with sells) and Paleoscolex (worm-like animals with a small head made up of four outward “nipples”). Emu Bay is ranked in the middle, age wise, between the Chengjiang deposits in southern China and the slightly younger Burgess Shale in Canada as significant Cambrian fossil sites. The Emu Bay assemblage of deposits are different in being from  shallow water and its biota characterised by  extensive mineralised labile soft tissue.

Acclimatisation aim to bring British birds to South Australia for agriculture, ornament

Acclimatisation – a move to bring out birds and other creatures from the British isles and introduce them to South Australia – gathered interest in colony in the 1860s. George Francis, first director of the Adelaide Botanic Garden, told an 1862 meeting of the Adelaide Philosophical Society that “the swallow, the water wagtail, the titmouse, and the house sparrow were likely to be very useful in destroying the insects which pestered the fields and gardens. Then pheasants, ducks, geese, pigeons, and many other birds might be introduced as birds of ornament.”

Joy Adamson of 'Born Free' fame calls zoo the worst; showdown over bird trading in 1960s

Joy Adamson, whose love of lions inspired the book and film Born Free described Adelaide Zoo in 1963 as archaic with enclosures far too small: the worst she had seen. In the same year, a government inquiry exposed the need for the zoo to modernise. The early 1960s also saw an end to the zoo’s dominant role in export trading of live native birds, after the retirement of zoo council president Fred Basse who'd dismissed zoo director William Gasking for refusing to take part in the trading.


An all-Aboriginal board for Alinytjara Wilurara managing the far north west's natural resources

The Alinytjara Wilurara Natural Resources Management (NRM) Board, set up in 2004, is the only all-Aboriginal NRM Board in Australia. It supports managing of natural resources across South Australia's far northwest including APY lands, Maralinga Tjarutja, Yalata and the far West Coast. The Alinytjara Wilurara (“northwest” in Pitjantjatjara) board has achieved significant outcomes. The board’s approach is innovative and community-driven to ensure sustainable use of precious water resources in the region, while protecting the country and culture. Managing water is expected to become more important with projected temperatures forecast by the Goyder Institute for the region to rise by 1.5 degrees and rainfall to decrease by 12.1% by 2050. The board also works closely with community partners to manage feral camels and buffel grass. This is part of work that has contributed to a 42% increase in NRM jobs for Aboriginal people. Through its blend of partnership, strong governance and leadership, the board has long-term visions for natural and cultural based tourism in the region. The tourism is expected to create more jobs and an economic base for the communities, while supporting the education of young community members so they can be employed in natural resources management.


Zoo redirects efforts towards education in 1970s; starts to reflect mixed eco systems

Adelaide Zoo made a significant shift in its direction in the early 1970s. The 1971 annual report noted that “a start has been made in promoting the educational as opposed to the purely entertainment or recreational value of the Zoo”. An educational officer was appointed in 1972 to “emphasize to schools the value, purpose and function of the zoo as an educational tool”. Universities were also encouraged to use the zoo for research. The zoo also started to break with tradition and house animals in their mixed eco systems.


Contact Us

We welcome positive constructive feedback