Rhino ready for debut at zoo's Electric Safari

MATT STEINER Updated: December 3, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: December 3, 2012

Jumbe popped his up head briefly from his midday nap Monday at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and looked around.

The 9-year-old black rhinoceros seemed to wonder why yet another group of photographers and reporters were standing outside his enclosure in the elephant barn, talking with animal keepers and clicking photo after photo.

As Jumbe (Joom-bay) let out a sigh and laid his head back down on the rubber mat, keeper Sarah Gonzales said most days the nearly 2,600-pound animal “usually does take a couple-hour nap, but it just depends on the day.”

Jumbe, one of the newest additions to the zoo’s roster of animals, arrived in the middle of the night Oct. 10 in a crate on a flatbed trailer, said Erica Meyer, a spokeswoman for the zoo.

Meyer said the rhino is the first at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo since a female named Shyanne left for Denver in 2000 during renovations to the zoo’s African Rift Valley area.

Jumbe has joined four female elephants – Lucky, Kimba, Malaika and Jumbo – in the Wilgren Elephant Center of the Encounter Africa exhibit, which is under construction. The newest area at the zoo is expected to open in spring of 2013, Meyer said.

Beginning Friday, however, part of the Elephant Center will be open to the public during the zoo’s 22nd Electric Safari holiday program.

The Electric Safari starts this week, opening Friday through Sunday. The program will then take four days off before reopening for nightly visitors from Dec. 14 through Jan. 1.

Meyer said a footbridge will lead guests to a balcony in the elephant barn where people will be able to look down on Jumbe and his roommates.

“That’s really exciting. It has been more than a year since guests have been able to see our girls,” Meyer said of the elephants.

Elephants take up most of the barn, but Jumbe has a three-pen area, where he plays with barrels, balls, tires and logs between naps and meals of hay, grain, apples, carrots and sweet potatoes.

Meyer said the zoo does not plan on adding more rhinos as “they are solitary creatures.”

So, Jumbe should be one of the stars of Encounter Africa when it opens, Meyer said. She hopes Jumbe will get one more chance for public exposure, however, once 2013 begins.

Jumbe turns 10 in January and might need a birthday party.

“We’ve thought about it,” Meyer said. “I’ve definitely been thinking about it.”

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