Victoria and Edward stand facing each other after enjoying a wallow in the mud

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Rhino Keeper Diaries: Enchanted by Edward

Every Day Brings New Joy

By Jonnie Capiro, Lead Keeper, Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

I can’t believe that Edward is already 3 weeks old! Time has flown by, and every day brings something new to the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center. It’s incredible to watch Edward grow—there’s nothing else I can compare it to.

The Best Way to Start the Day

Victoria has settled in to the new routine very well. When the morning shift keepers arrive, we set out breakfast. Victoria munches away on a giant pile of hay, or some apples, while Edward comes over to check us out. He walks over to us boldly, head up, like he owns the place (I suppose he does, in a way). He seems very eager to investigate and get to know us.

What happens next is so sweet, it’s almost beyond belief. Edward stretches his smooth, gray baby face toward us. He looks at us with his deep brown eyes and twitches his fuzzy little ears. He might snuffle a bit. He seems to be asking for attention, but he’s just a little shy. That’s okay, though, because we know just what to do.

We shower him with scratches, all over his ears, neck, and back. If we find the right spot, he turns to mush. His back legs become weak and he squats very slowly, as if he’s enjoying the scratches so much that he can’t stand up anymore. After a minute, his head tilts back and he has to slump all the way down to the floor in total bliss. (This is a typical rhino calf response to a good rub down—Edward continues to meet his developmental and behavioral milestones like clockwork.)

Edward explores his first mud wallow

Every day, Edward looks a little bit different, a little bit older.

Edward’s Endearing Antics

Before the morning shift arrives to set out breakfast and give scratches, Edward likes to run around the yard at top speed. He’s usually at it when we arrive at 6:30 a.m. To me, he looks like a 200-pound puppy, galloping in pure joy. Eventually, his energy wears off and it’s time for a nap. Then later, maybe a mud wallow.

Little Edward is feisty and ready to take on the world. He spars with Victoria, charging her in play, still a bit uncoordinated on his wobbly little legs. She's very gentle with him, and lets him win. Later, if she happens to be resting when he wants to play again, he'll challenge anything that’s nearby—empty food tubs, basketball-sized rubber horse toys, it doesn’t matter to him. It’s so much fun to watch him learn and explore!

Edward expresses his newfound love for mud and wallows

After a few minutes of investigating the edges of the new wallow, Edward laid down on his side and rolled onto his back, just like a pro!

Mother and Son Dynamics

The relationship between Victoria and Edward is fascinating to watch. At just 3 weeks old, he’s confident and independent. He regularly wanders away from Victoria, venturing across the yard to investigate something or seeking out a keeper to get some scratches.

Sometimes, Edward’s sense of independence catches up with him. He’ll go into the barn by himself, realize that Victoria isn’t right behind him, and let out some pint-sized vocalizations. Which are squeaks. That’s right: baby rhinos squeak! They sound exactly like a squeaky toy. Anyway, when Edward makes his high-pitched squeaks, Victoria responds the only way a mom knows how… by rushing to his side.

Edward runs around his yard, covered in mud and full of joy

After his very first wallow in the mud, Edward ran around full speed, celebrating this wonderful new experience.

There’s Nothing Like a Good Wallow

We recently made a new wallow for Victoria and Edward. We scooped several tractor buckets of mud from the big yard and relocated it to the maternity yard. Before you start wondering why we’d go to all this trouble for some wet dirt, let me tell you that wallow mud can’t just be any old mud. We’re particular about the consistency.

Rhinos love to wallow—mud cools them off and coats their thick-yet-sensitive skin, acting as both sunscreen and bug spray. To be effective, the mud has to stick to them, coating them completely without running right off. We aim for the perfect ratio of dirt to water—the sweet spot is between thick/clumpy and thin/runny.

Initially, Edward was hesitant to try out the new wallow. But after a few minutes of investigating the edges, he committed. He laid down on his side and rolled onto his back, just like a pro! Even though it was his first wallow, he knew just what to do.

Just Like Proud Parents

Edward is growing so fast—he weighed 148 pounds when he was born, and on day 13 he weighed 215 pounds. That’s a 67-pound gain! Every day, he looks a little bit different, a little bit older. It’s amazing.

Just like new parents, we are smitten with Edward’s every movement, development, and discovery. We take pictures and video. We’ll tell anyone who will listen about what cute thing he did today. Most of all, we’re bursting with joy that he’s finally joined our family.

Every time we introduce him to something new, Edward has an audience. Everyone at the Rhino Rescue Center gets to stop for a few minutes and enjoy him. He’s inspiring. And he’s here with us because San Diego Zoo Global has a vision, a promise, and a fearless commitment to his species. Supporters like you make miracles like Edward possible—thank you so much.