City of Joburg

Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo


Johannesburg Zoo

 

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Elephants Lammie and Kinkel, rhinos Peter and Zimbie, and hippopotamuses Hlanganani, Sandrock and Sdumo, are huge drawcards at the Zoo. The African pachyderms have similar habits and are a treat to meet.

THE Johannesburg Zoo houses a variety of African animals; among them large pachyderms that are most recognisable to many visitors.

Pachyderms are animals with thick skins and hooves or nails; think elephants, hippos and rhinos, all at home at the Zoo.

Lammie and Kinkel
The Zoo's elephants, Lammie (34) and Kinkel (30), are African elephants and have been together since 2001. Kinkel was born in the wild in 1983, but after an injury from a poacher's snare, making it impossible for him to return to the wild, he came to the Zoo. Lammie, a female, was born at the Zoo in 1979. African elephants are the world's biggest land animals.

Their behaviours are somewhat different; Kinkel is a male and more used to living alone and is more boisterous. Lammie is a female, and in the wild females live in family groups of mothers and children. They are calmer than males, but will not hesitate to charge when they or their babies are threatened.

Wild elephants eat as much as 136 kg of food a day; these herbivores eat bark, leaves, grass, fruit and roots. They use their trunks, with more than 10 000 muscles, to pluck leaves and dig for roots and will often push over large trees to get at the roots. They roam far and wide to feed their huge appetites.

Elephant young are protected and loved, and are quite large at birth; standing around a metre tall, and weighing almost 100 kg. They're a huge commitment; elephant pregnancies last for almost two years and the young will sometimes nurse for up to six years.

Elephants are affectionate, playful and have been known to mourn their dead. They will often wallow in mud to cool off and rid themselves of parasites.

At the Zoo Lammie and Kinkel's enclosure resembles their wild habitat as much as possible; they have loads of toys to keep them busy and help them continue the behaviours they would conduct in the wild, keeping them healthy and happy.

Elephants are an endangered species, hunted for their ivory tusks.

Peter and Zimbi
White rhinos are not white; in fact they're grey, just like Black rhinos. The difference lies in their mouths, pointed for Black rhinos and square or wide-lipped for White rhinos and two horns for White and one horn for Black rhinos. Johannesburg Zoo hosts two White rhinos, Peter (7) and Zimbi (13).

White rhinos are grazers, eating grasses in the wild. They have been brought back from the brink of extinction through conservation efforts but are still being hunted and killed for their horns, which many consider ornamental or medicinal.

They live in groups of up to 12 and calve every two to five years. The single calf is cared for in the group until it's around three years old. Despite bad eyesight, rhinos have excellent hearing and a keen sense of smell and can follow each other's trails in the grassy areas they live in.  Like elephants they wallow to keep cool and repel insects.

Hippopotamuses
Three happy hippos live at the Zoo; mum Hlanganani (20), dad Sandrock (21) and little Sdumo, who turned three this year. All three hippos were born at the Zoo. Just like hippo mums in the wild, Hlanganani is very protective of Sdumo, and doesn't let Sandrock near him much.

In the wild, hippos live in schools for protection against predators, and always near water; in fact they love water and spend most of their days submerged. Their nostrils are high on their heads, making breathing while they're almost fully underwater easier. Because of this behaviour, the Greeks named them "river horses". They are deceptively fast on land though, and can match a human's speed over short distances.

Sometimes they bask on river shores; they have a natural sunscreen, an oily red substance that also moisturises the skin and can protect against germs. At sunset hippos set off for food; looking for plants and soft shrubs and grasses. They eat relatively little - around 35 kg per day - for their size.

Hippo babies are heavy, weighing around 45 kg at birth, and can suckle underwater. Hippos calve every two years. In 2006, hippos were considered an endangered species, but unlike their cousins, pygmy hippos, their populations seem to be stabilising.