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Assam’s only African white rhino dies at 47, meets a lonely end without a mate

People For Animals said Mohan’s death is a reminder that feral animals should not be made to undergo life in captivity.

india Updated: Jul 19, 2017 21:47 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Rahul Karmakar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Assam,White rhinoceros,Rhinoceros
Two-horned African rhinoceros ‘Mohan’ died at Assam State Zoo in Guwahati.(HT Photo)

The lone African white rhino at the Assam State Zoo died of old age late Tuesday night, officials said.

Mohan, 47, who was brought from the United States in 1974, died without mating. The zoo officials failed to find him a female partner in over four decades of his stay, despite him experiencing mood swings and exhibiting violent tendencies such as banging against the enclosure, which officials attributed to his “frustration over sexual inactivity”.

In 2005, Mohan was diagnosed with paratuberculosis, or Johne’s Disease, which is contagious, chronic and often fatal for ruminants such as cows but can also strike hindgut fermenters such as horses and rhinos.

Zoo officials said they never expected Mohan to recover. “He was too old to eat. His system was refusing to take food even in liquid form. He had battled diseases earlier, but gave up the fight at 11.30pm yesterday (Tuesday),” Tejas Mariswamy, the zoo’s divisional forest officer (DFO), told HT on Wednesday. The official explained than the average lifespan of rhinos is 45 to 50 years.

Mohan, bought for Rs 50,000 from Southwitch Birds and Animals Inc in Black Stone, US, had attained sexual maturity three years after he landed at the zoo on December 22, 1974. He was long past his sexual prime when he developed the disease in 2005, by which time officials began describing the possibility of bringing a mating partner for him as “dangerous”.

“Sadly, Mohan died without mating because a female white rhino could not be found in India,” Mariswamy said.

Officials said Mohan could have been paired with a captive Indian female rhino. But the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) had in 1986 banned cross-mating of animals belonging to different species. The CZA’s move was in tune with the worldwide decision to stop hybridisation of big cats after the Alipore Zoo, Kolkata, had experimented with litigons (a cross between a lion and a tigress) and tigons (a tiger and a lioness) in the 1970s .

Sangeeta Goswami of People For Animals said Mohan’s death is a reminder that feral animals should not be made to undergo life in captivity. “The African rhino was denied sexual rights for no fault of his,” she said.

A spokesperson of People for Ethical Treatment to Animals said, “Captive breeding of animals in zoos is unethical, even if it means depriving a rhino its right to reproduction.”

First Published: Jul 19, 2017 21:27 IST