Rolling Hills Zoo grieves death of 33-year-old greater one-horned rhino

Joya, a greater one-horned rhinoceros at Salina's Rolling Hills Zoo, died at the age of 33.
Joya, a greater one-horned rhinoceros at Salina's Rolling Hills Zoo, died at the age of 33.(Rolling Hills Zoo)
Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 3:12 PM CDT
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SALINA, Kan. (KWCH) - Salina’s Rolling Hills Zoo is grieving the death of a 33-year-old greater one-horned rhino named Joya. Born on May 22, 1988 at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, Joya came to the Rolling Hills Zoo on April 8, 1995, on loan from the southern California park.

Joya, the oldest male in the Greater one-horned rhinoceros’ Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Rolling Hills Zoo said.

The zoo said at 33 years old, Joya began developing age-related issues.

“Our animal care staff and veterinarian have been monitoring his quality of life for the past several months. Most recently he developed lameness in one foot that did not respond to treatment. Because his quality of life was declining rapidly, and to allow him to pass with dignity, it was decided that humanly euthanizing him was the kindest option available,” the Rolling Hills Zoo said.

Joya, well known at the Salina zoo, enjoyed apples, sweet potatoes, bananas and grains as treats and “loved the attention and tactical reinforcement.”

“He was an amazing animal,” said Rolling Hills Zoo Head Keeper Devney Bowen. “We always had to respect his size and the fact that he was ultimately a wild animal, but he could be docile. He loved to be scratched with soft brushes and would lie down on cue.”

The zoo said Joya was trained to lie down, open his mouth, paint with his prehensile lip, line-up and station using operant conditioning and positive reinforcement.’

Zoo visitors would often find him in his pool, sometimes completely submerged except for his eyes, nose and ears.

“Joya was a fantastic ambassador for his species and has undoubtedly had an impact on the nearly 2 million visitors to the Rolling Hills Zoo over the past 20+ years,” said Ryan VanZant, RHZ Executive Director. “The fact that he is one of the longest lived greater one-horned rhinos is a testament to the care he was provided throughout his life, and through the behaviors Joya exhibited we know that he was safe, happy, healthy, and thriving right up until the one thing we could not save him from…time. He will be greatly missed by all.”

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