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Chopper the Rhino Calf Made His Public Debut on Feb. 16

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The calf weighed more than 500 pounds at 15 weeks old.

Chopper the Rhino Calf Made His Public Debut on Feb. 16

Chopper the rhino calf investigates a ball at the Zoo. Photo by Natalie Sommer/ABQ BioPark.

February 8, 2013

Chopper the rhinoceros calf made his public debut on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 10 a.m. at the ABQ BioPark. After a short ceremony, Zoo guests watched Chopper tromp into the rhino exhibit in Africa. Guests also enjoyed hands-on discovery stations about rhinos and other African animals from 10 a.m. - noon.

The animal care team moved the calf from the veterinary clinic to the rhino barn when baby-proofing was finished in early February. He settled into the barn and large back yard well, and keepers felt that he was ready to explore the front yards and meet Zoo guests. Watch a video about Chopper moving in.

"Chopper is doing great, and our keepers are doing an excellent job with the big task of caring for this big baby," said Rhonda Saiers, Hoofstock/Elephant Manager. "We're excited that guests will be able to enjoy watching him in the main yards. He really wins people over and can help us teach guests about rhinos and the threats they face around the world."

Since his debut on Feb. 16, Chopper has been venturing into the front yards each day. The schedule may vary depending on staffing levels and the needs of the herd. Guests can find out his current schedule by checking the rhino exhibit page, calling 311 or asking a Zoo cashier upon arrival.

At fifteen weeks old, the rhino calf weighs more than 500 pounds and his first horn has grown a few centimeters. He drinks two-gallons of milk-based formula five times a day. He has grown steadily on the formula made from skim and 1% cow's milk, donated by Creamland Dairy, with extra dextrose and vitamins to mimic the very sweet, low-fat milk of rhino mothers.

"Our next big goal will be introducing Chopper to the adults-Bertha, Loulou and Bernie," said Saiers. "The calf is curious about the adult rhinos. He can smell and see them across the barn and sometimes squeaks and grunts when they come in. The adults are interested in the little guy and each interacts with him through the barrier. We are taking our time to be sure the introductions go smoothly."

The rhino calf was born at Florida's White Oak Conservation Center on Oct. 30, 2012. He weighed 132 pounds at birth. The calf was not able to bond with his mother, and zookeepers started hand-raising him. Chopper is the son of Bully, a male rhino on loan from the BioPark, and belongs to the Zoo's herd. He arrived in Albuquerque on Nov. 14. BioPark Facebook fans voted to name him Chopper in honor of community leader Jimmy "Chopper" Abalos. For more information, email biopark@cabq.gov or dial 311 locally (505-768-2000).

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