Denver Zoo’s Black Rhinoceros Mourned: Beloved Painting Rhino Put To Sleep Because Of Health

The staff of the Denver Zoo euthanized their beloved black rhinoceros on Wednesday. According to Market Watch, the staff of the Denver Zoo made the difficult decision to euthanize their 21-year-old black rhinoceros, Mshindi, because of health problems.

Since 2014, the rhino had been dealing with issues with his rear feet. After several infections and many treatments by the staff of the zoo, the rhino’s quality of life was deteriorating. A post on the Denver Zoo’s Facebook page shared the sad news about Mshindi’s passing on Thursday.

“We are deeply saddened to announce the death of “Mshindi,” a beloved 21-year-old male black rhinoceros. He had been under close observation and treatment by veterinary and animal care staff for chronic foot problems that have gotten progressively worse over the last year and a half. Having lost his quality of life, staff made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize Mshindi on the morning of September 16 at Denver Zoo. The median life expectancy for black rhinoceroses living in North American zoos is 17.8 years.”

Mshindi had gained some notoriety for a special skill in recent years. Many knew him as the “painting rhino.” He had been taught to paint by using a paintbrush placed in his mouth. His paintings were sold, and the funds were used toward rhino conversation efforts.

Rhinos are an endangered species. Market Watch reports that today there are less than 5,000 rhinos in the world. This number is down from 100,000 in 1960. Their report revealed that rhinos “continue to be poached in unprotected areas for their horn which is used in traditional Chinese medicine and in Yemen for dagger handles. In fact, many black rhino populations have been decimated as poaching has dramatically increased in recent years.”

Staff at the Denver Zoo also spoke about the loss of their beloved rhino after his death on Wednesday. Dale Leeds, curator of Toyota Elephant Passage, said, “We’ll miss him terribly, but we knew this was the right thing to do. Mshindi was well-known and loved by our zookeepers and guests for his wonderful personality.”

Vice President of Veterinary Medicine, Scott Larsen, also spoke about Mshindi’s death and the difficult decision the zoo staff was forced to make.

“We watched Mshindi very closely and were optimistic about his recovery, but he was no longer responding to his treatment. Unfortunately, he was getting progressively worse and we determined that his health was declining despite the tireless efforts by staff to treat him. It’s always difficult to make these decisions, but we wanted to do what was in Mshinidi’s best interest. He will be missed dearly.”

Fans of the Denver Zoo and Mshindi also expressed their sadness over his death in comments to the zoo’s announcement about his passing.

One commenter said, “Thank you to all the dedicated keepers and vets who loved him and cared for him. I was so privileged to meet him in the rhino meet-n-greet tour in July 2013. I also centered much of my AIP graduate coursework at Denver Zoo on rhino behavior and spent many hours getting to watch and admire Mshindi. He was a wonderful ambassador for his species and he’ll be so missed by everyone who got to see him. Hugs and well wishes to his human family. RIP Mshy!”

Another commenter said, “His care and life that you provided him were wonderful. It was always a pleasure to visit Mshindi. My heart goes out to his caregivers, but know that he will be missed by many.”

This is not the first time Mshindi has made the news at the Denver Zoo. In 2013, he bit the finger of a woman during one of the Denver Zoo’s Rhino Meet and Greet sessions. The zoo stopped the rhino encounters after the incident.

According to the Huffington Post, Mshindi bit down on the woman’s finger while she was trying to feed him. The woman was one of the zoo visitors who paid $60 for the chance to feed and meet the rhino. The staff at the zoo called it a “terrible accident.”

The one-time incident did not lessen the animal’s popularity. Both zoo staff and zoo visitors loved him. He will be missed.

[Photo by Donlammers/Wikimedia Commons]