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Zookeepers bid emotional farewell to Zuko the white rhino

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Endangered rhino Zuko is being moved to a park in Wales

Endangered rhino Zuko is being moved to a park in Wales

Endangered rhino Zuko is being moved to a park in Wales

Zookeepers at Dublin Zoo have said an emotional farewell to an endangered white rhino born in the African Plains area.

Three-year-old Zuko was shown this week on RTÉ's The Zoo being prepared for the journey to join other rhino bachelors in Manor House Park in Wales.

With his mother Ashanti expecting a new calf, it was decided to move the youngster as he would be reject- ed with the birth of his sibling.

Keeper Ken Mackey, who has looked after Zuko since birth, said his departure was a bittersweet moment.

"He's a fantastic rhino and he'll be missed, but he's going to represent his species," he said.

"I remember the day he was born. From the start he was a character.

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"We're losing one of our greatest animals. It's a sad moment for us, but for him it's the start of his future."

The Zoo showed how keepers put Zuko through weeks of reward training in a bid to ensure his journey would be as easy as possible.

The team spent many sessions getting the rhino to the point where he did not object to the sensation of a needle as he would be sedated for the trip.

"The injection training is putting pressure on the area," Mr Mackey said.

"The idea is when we do go to stick the needle in, he's already desensitised to the feeling.

"If you put the time into an animal, they put the time into you."

Dublin Zoo has been practising positive reinforcement training with all its animals for years.

The training rewards the animals for certain behaviours that help the team care for them.

In recent years, wild rhino numbers have dropped dramatically because of poaching for their horns which are prized in Asian countries. In 2017, more than 1,000 of the world population of 20,000 white rhinos were killed in South Africa for their horns.

The Zoo is on RTÉ One tomorrow at 7.30pm.


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