Zoo keepers shot and killed a rare white rhinoceros Thursday after it broke out of its enclosure, crossed a highway and charged a veterinarian who hoped it could be subdued with a tranquilizer dart.
The 3-1/2-ton female, which had been at the privately owned Zoo of Acadiana for only a couple of weeks, broke through a sturdy welded pipe fence after fighting with a male rhino, curator Ron Cline said.
A deputy spotted the rhino crossing U.S. Highway 90 shortly before 4 a.m., sheriff’s Lt. Ken Franques said.
Authorities surrounded the rhino after daybreak. A curator from the Baton Rouge Zoo and a Louisiana State University veterinarian, both armed with tranquilizer guns, circled forward along with Acadiana veterinarian Eric White. He carried a hunting rifle - just in case.
As the three men got close, the rhino bolted back across the highway into the zoo. It was in a parking lot, trying to break through a fence, when the three got close again, Cline said.
“Two of the vets were able to scramble to some trees. The third was not able. … Luckily, he had the rifle,” Cline said.
The rhino was about 15 feet away from White when White stopped it with a bullet between the eyes, Cline said.
“He was so shook up, I took the rifle and finished her off,” he said.
The rhino’s owner had bought it from a breeding facility in Clifton, Texas, Cline said. The animal’s age was estimated at 10 years, and it was believed to be pregnant.
Only about 6,000 white rhinos exist worldwide. A pair that the San Diego Zoo shipped to China this summer died apparently from heat and dehydration after five days in an open truck.