It’s common for people to use fitness trackers of one type or another while walking around Walt Disney World Resort, but did you know some animals are also wearing the devices?
“Guests aboard Kilimanjaro Safaris may notice some of the rhinos — along with rhinos at select accredited institutions across the U.S. — are sporting an activity tracker very similar to the popular fitness trackers many of us have worn to track our daily steps and activity, but on a much larger scale!” Dr. Scott Terrell, director of Animal & Science Operations at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, wrote in a blog.
The Need To Manage Rhino Populations
Southern white rhinos are the world’s second-largest land mammal. Males, which can be around 6 feet tall at the shoulder and 12–13 feet in length, can weigh as much as 7,920 pounds, according to the WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature).
In captivity, southern white rhinos live 27–30 years.
Sadly, southern white rhinos were thought to be extinct in the late 19th century, until a small population was discovered in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. Now, after a century of conservation efforts, there are an estimated 20,000 southern white rhinos in protected areas and private game reserves, mainly in South Africa.
Although their comeback is widely regarded as a “major conservation success story,” southern white rhinos are still classified as “near threatened,” according to National Geographic.
Managed Conservation Efforts
Fitting the rhinos at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park with activity trackers helps “us better understand the activity levels of the rhinos in our care throughout the day and when they settle in for the evening,” Dr. Terrell explains. “Because of the built-in accelerometer, we can track the distance they cover running and walking around the savanna. We also can better track their sleeping and napping schedules.”
Another benefit to fitting the rhinos with activity trackers is that the units feature GPS technology so Dr. Terrell and other members of the Animal & Science Operations team can determine where on the savanna the rhinos like to spend their time. This knowledge helps the team better understand which features in the habitat are most popular with the rhinos.
A Look To The Future
“These efforts to better understand the role of physical fitness in the overall health of rhinos are one part of a larger, collaborative research project with rhinos from 74 accredited zoos and wildlife centers across the U.S.,” Dr. Terrell continues. “When combined with other data from veterinarians, scientists, and animal care specialists, this information on physical fitness will help all animal care experts better understand how different habitats play a role in rhino health.”
The result, Dr. Terrell concludes, will help “rhinos receive the best care for many generations to come!”
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