Olivia, ‘great auntie’ to younger rhinos, dies at North Carolina Zoo

ASHEBORO, N.C. (WITN) – The North Carolina Zoo has announced that one of its oldest residents, Olivia the rhino, passed away on Thursday.

The zoo says that Olivia was a southern white rhinoceros who had been with them for more than 30 years.

WITN is told that the 54-year-old rhino had lived at the zoo since 1987 when she arrived as a breeding pair with male rhino Stan.

No offspring were born to them, but the zoo says in their later years, Olivia and Stan lived together at the zoo’s spacious rhino annex (out of view of the public) in retirement for several years until Stan died in 2019.

After 2019, Olivia was reintroduced to the other animals on the zoo’s 40-acre Watani Grasslands and became a “great auntie” to the younger rhinos. The zoo says southern rhinos are the most social of the rhino species and live together in groupings called “crashes.”

Rhino populations are threatened by poaching and habitat loss, and Olivia served as an ambassador for the plight of rhinos in the wild, as one of the oldest female rhinos in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums venues.

Dr. Jb Minter, the zoo’s director of animal health and chief veterinarian, said they had been closely monitoring Olivia for any signs of declining health for the past few years.

“The culmination of several health conditions led to a significant decrease in her quality of life and her ability to get around comfortably. The animal care and veterinary teams then made the difficult decision to euthanize Oliva,” Minter said.

Zookeeper Anna Hinson cared for the rhino for several years.

“I will certainly miss Liv and her sassy attitude,” Hinson said. “Over the years, she mellowed quite a bit, and I wish the zoo’s newer keepers had been around to see ol’ Liv in her prime. Even in her golden years, it’s truly remarkable how she stuck to her routine. I’ll forever be richer for having worked with her.”

The zoo tells WITN that southern white rhinos were hunted to near extinction by the beginning of the 20th century for their horns. Today, populations in the wild are estimated to be between about 19,000 and 21,000, and still face significant threats from poaching and habitat loss.

The North Carolina Zoo says it now has a rhino crash of eight females Linda, Kit, Natalie, Abby, Nandi, Bonnie, Jojo and Mguu.

Donations in remembrance of Olivia and for rhino conservation around the world can be made by visiting online here.

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