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.


Rhino on the move!

Watch Rhino Mtoto's journey from Auckland Zoo to Altina Wildlife Park

To ensure his safety and comfort, Mtoto's crate (4.8m long, 1.58m wide and 2.3m high) is specifically designed so that he has room to lie down and move within a secure area. 

On board refreshments for Mtoto will be minimal – just some of his favourite lucerne for the relatively short Auckland-Sydney flight.

David and Auckland Zoo vet manager, Dr James Chatterton, who will be travelling in the cockpit of the 767, will be checking on Mtoto prior to flying, at the Christchurch stopover, on landing in Sydney. 

"Once we touch down in Sydney, our Australian colleagues will provide additional food supplies. Throughout the road trip, I'll also have plenty of opportunity to regularly check on him so he’ll also have the security of a familiar face and voice," says David.  

Altina Wildlife Park director, Gloria Altin, says she and her team are "elated that Mtoto will be the first rhino to set foot on Altina soil and look forward to meeting him once he lands in Australia".