Australian zoo probes mystery rhino deaths

March 21, 2012
This file photo, released by Australia Zoo, shows a day old baby rhino, with her mother, an endangered Southern White Rhinoceros, at an Australian Zoo, in 2011. An Australian outback zoo is investigating the sudden and mystifying deaths of four white rhinos who showed "neurologic abnormalities" like stumbling.

An Australian outback zoo was Wednesday investigating the sudden and mystifying deaths of four white rhinos who showed "neurologic abnormalities" like stumbling.

The Taronga Western Plains Zoo, a safari-style animal park about 400 kilometres (248 miles) west of Sydney, said toxins, , and had so far been ruled out in the deaths.

"Currently tests are underway to investigate possible viral causes, although several types including Hendra virus and have also been ruled out," the zoo said in a statement.

As a precaution, it said its remaining three white rhinos "have been removed from display and placed in a quarantine area at the zoo. They are being closely monitored by keeping staff and the veterinary team".

The animals all died "over the past couple of weeks".

The zoo said a team of vets was working "around the clock" with specialists from Africa and North America, virologists and pathologists to try to determine what had killed the rare African creatures.

It said that no other species at the zoo had been affected and the rest of its animals were in good health.

"Obviously the rhino keepers and veterinary staff know and care for every individual in the herd, so this has been a huge shock and we're all very sad," said Matt Fuller, general manager of the .

"Our focus is on continuing this investigation to pinpoint the cause of the sickness and to care for the remaining animals in the herd."

The zoo's rhinos are southern whites, the less endangered of the two white rhinoceros species.

There are estimated to be some 20,000 southern whites surviving in the wild according to environmental group WWF, which says that northern white are virtually extinct and can now only be found in captivity.

Explore further: Endangered gopher frogs bred in zoo

Related Stories

Endangered gopher frogs bred in zoo

April 8, 2008

Tennessee's Memphis Zoo says it has successful started the first captive breeding program for endangered Mississippi gopher frogs.

Endangered rhinos return to wild

December 11, 2009

A Czech zoo is to transfer four endangered Northern White rhinos to a Kenyan reserve in a last-ditch attempt to ensure the survival of the species.

Recommended for you

Study finds 'rudimentary' empathy in macaques

December 1, 2015

(—A pair of researchers with Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université Lyon, in France has conducted a study that has shown that macaques have at least some degree of empathy towards their fellow ...

Scientists overcome key CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing hurdle

December 1, 2015

Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT have engineered changes to the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system that significantly cut down on "off-target" ...

Which came first—the sponge or the comb jelly?

December 1, 2015

Bristol study reaffirms classical view of early animal evolution. Whether sponges or comb jellies (also known as sea gooseberries) represent the oldest extant animal phylum is of crucial importance to our understanding of ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.