COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The Wilds is home to hundreds of threatened and endangered animals and the conservation efforts are known worldwide.

The rhino programs in particular are so well known that the rhinos are being tracked and documented in a multi-institutional collaborative project. The Wilds is one of 60 participating institutions taking part in the American Institute of Rhinoceros Science (AIRS).

 “The idea is that we want to research rhino physiology from a variety of perspectives,” said Parker Pennington, the on-site project manager at The Wilds. “And so there are four major pillars of interest or research with the program. Physical fitness, well-being, reproduction, and iron overload disorder.”

Using a range of techniques from blood-draws to behavioral observation and activity trackers data is collected and documented from around 200 black and white rhinos.

“So, it’s going to be a huge amount of information that we have to go through, but we’re really excited about it,” said Pennington.

Having The Wilds participate is very exciting for Pennington, who is heading up the reproductive pillar. The ultimate goal, he said, is better understanding rhinos under managed care to support them moving forward and growing the population.

“This is one of the most successful places for rhinos to reproduce in North America. They are the only facility to be able to claim a fifth-generation rhino that’s been born here. And that’s part of what we want to understand with the AIRS project is what about the management strategies contribute to not only rhino physiology, but the successful breeding,” said Pennington.