Animal-caring staff from France’s La Planete Sauvage zoological park were put into a tough position this past week following the passing of Sana, a female Southern white rhinoceros that had lived at the park for at least 26 years.
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At 55 years of age, Sana was the oldest captive Southern white rhinoceros in the world, and she was definitely beginning to show her age. Park staff went on to explain that Sana had become too old to partake in normal rhino activities, such as rolling around in the mud. This behavior coats the animals’ skin and harbors a bevy of health benefits including natural sunscreen, insect repellant, and body temperature regulation all in one.
Staff purportedly made accommodations for Sana’s old age. Since she was unable to roll around in the mud in her enclosure, they manually coated her skin with clay once every week to provide the same health benefits that the sloshy mud would have.
By no means did Sana die young either – the average life expectancy for a wild Southern white rhinoceros is approximately 50 years. Being in captivity meant that she received gracious food portions and pampering from her caretakers.
Sana was originally born at South Africa’s Umfolozi National Park in 1964, and she spent several years touring Germany as she was shipped from one park to another before finally arriving for her long and peaceful stay at France’s beautiful La Planete Sauvage zoological park.
Southern white rhinoceroses like Sana aren’t in any immediate danger of extinction, but the Northern variety are particularly out of luck as the world’s last male passed away last year. Rhinoceroses of all varieties are frequently targeted and killed by poachers, who greedily saw off the animals’ horns to be sold for a profit on the black market.
Sana’s long life and the incredible bond she shared with her caretakers is something that will be cherished and celebrated for a long time to come. It’s just unfortunate that her time had to come so soon; fortunately, she died of old age rather than health complications, and we can only hope that the caretakers can take comfort in knowing that.