Auckland Zoo's male rhino Mtoto begins a 2,756km plane and road trip today bound for a new home at Altina Wildlife Park south-west of Sydney.
The genetically valuable male is being relocated as part of the Australasian zoos' regional breeding programme for southern white rhino.
Mtoto is the son of the Zoo's male Zambezi and younger brother of Inkosi, and at 12 years old, has now reached sexual maturity.
"Mtoto is a lovely natured rhino and a very playful adolescent, who's still just a young boy at heart; he loves running around in the rain and through puddles! We are going to miss him, but this is the right time for him to leave, and it's great for the regional programme," says Auckland Zoo Pridelands keeper David Crimp, who will travel with Mtoto and stay on for a few days to settle him in to his new home.
A purpose-built marine aluminium crate will transport 1.7 tonne Mtoto, whose Trans-Tasman flight will be on a Qantas Boeing 767 Freighter. He will travel from Auckland to Christchurch and then on to Sydney, and from Sydney, will be transported by road for the final 600km of his journey.
In preparation for his big trip, David and the Pridelands team have been getting Mtoto familiar and comfortable with his crate over the past few months.
"Mtoto is generally really good with new things, and from day one, with the lure of some lucerne, one of his favourite foods, he happily wandered right in," says David.