It was the only southern black rhino in Europe and one of the most popular character animals at Frankfurt Zoo. In recent months, however, KALUSHO has become increasingly unwell due to his advanced age. On Wednesday, the zoo had to make the decision to put the rhino bull to sleep.
For more than 30 years, rhino bull KALUSHO was an integral part of every visit to the zoo. The good-natured and sensitive giant lived to be an impressive 37 years old and was a real character animal at the zoo. But his age has clearly made itself felt in recent months. The rhino bull lost weight and became increasingly passive, he was plagued by age-related complaints and osteoarthritis was visibly restricting his mobility. With intensive, adapted treatment and painkillers, KALUSHO kept having good phases, but these also became fewer and shorter in the end. "We have been monitoring him more and more closely over the last few months. Yesterday, things got so bad that we had to make the decision to put him to sleep sooner than expected. This is sometimes particularly difficult, especially when you are dealing with an individual as special as KALUSHO. Many of us have worked closely with and around him for years - something like this is not easy for anyone. But when the time comes, everyone in the team is prepared to do what is necessary in the interest of the animal when all other options have been exhausted," says zoo director Dr. Christina Geiger.
In 1989, KALUSHO came to Frankfurt from Zimbabwe together with rhinoceros cow TSORORO as part of a rescue program of the Frankfurt Zoological Society (ZGF). This made Frankfurt Zoo the only keeper of southern black rhinos (Diceros bicornis minor) in Europe. All other black rhinos kept in European zoos are other subspecies, mostly East African black rhinos.
With the death of KALUSHO, southern black rhinos are no longer kept in Europe. The species is also very rare in the wild. Members of the subspecies minor are among the most endangered animal species of all. According to the IUCN Red List, they are critically endangered.
Southern black rhinos tend to live solitary lives and come together to mate. KALUSHO had three daughters, born in 1994, 1997 and 2001, with the rhino cow TSORORO, who died in 2016. All three were reintroduced to Africa. The eldest daughter AKURA had offspring in Marakele National Park in South Africa and became a grandmother in 2016. KALUSHO and TSORORO have therefore made a valuable contribution to the conservation of their species in their native habitat.
What the future holds for rhino husbandry in Frankfurt remains to be seen. The master plan for the zoo's development, which is due to be presented in spring 2024, envisages a completely redesigned, spacious Africa area. The zoo hopes to be able to realize the plans as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, it will be some time before black rhinos can move into a new facility. Although the rhino house from the 1950s meets the requirements for keeping a single rhino in terms of space, it is only compatible with modern zoo animal husbandry to a limited extent and only temporarily at best.