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Zoo opens doors to protect a rare breed; Species Survival Plan leads to rhino swap

Young rhinos are on the move.

Clover, the 4-year-old female Indian rhinoceros born in the Buffalo Zoo in 2008, moved Thursday to African Lion Safari in Cambridge, Ont.

Meanwhile, a 3 1/2 -year-old male Indian rhino is due to arrive in the spring from the Bronx Zoo.

The transfers are for breeding. The zoos participate in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan, designed to help maintain healthy and stable captive populations.

Indian rhinos, found in northern India and southern Nepal, have seen their numbers stabilize at about 2,500 from fewer than 200 thought to exist in the wild about a century ago.

Donna Fernandes, president of the Buffalo Zoo, said she was glad Clover would only be about two hours away. Clover's sister, Ashakiran, was born in Buffalo in 2004, and now resides at the Toronto Zoo.

"We were happy because both her and her sister are nearby, so the keepers can visit. It's sort of like your daughter going off to college, but you can still see her," Fernandes said.

Henry, the rhinos' father, died last July at age 19.

Clover's mother, Tashi, who is 15, will be paired with the younger male rhino, who Fernandes said should be coming into sexual maturity within the next year.

"She's a 'cougar,' you could call her," Fernandes said of Tashi, with a laugh.

Their time together, at best, will be short-lived. Females are solitary and will only tolerate the opposite sex when ovulating, and even then the timing has to be just right, Fernandes said.

"Tashi used to whistle when she was about to ovulate, so when she did we knew she wanted the male in with her," Fernandes said.