Rhino examined: Experts called in to help find cause of Kwanzaa's nose bleeds |Photos

A team of equine specialists from Wagga Wagga has helped Taronga Western Plains Zoo investigate a rhino bull’s bleeding nose.

Senior veterinarian Benn Bryant said southern black rhinoceros Kwanzaa, which is the zoo’s breeding bull, had his first nose bleed a couple of years ago.

“It was very short and it was one off and we didn’t worry too much about it. These guys kind of shove their faces into prickly browse to eat and we just presumed he had damaged his lining of his nose with a piece of vegetation,” he said.

However, his nose continued to bleed over the following years. After a serious nose bleed two weeks ago, the zoo become worried there was an issue with Kwanzaa’s upper respiratory passages.

After consultation with Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, a plan was developed.


On Monday, equine surgeon Associate Professor Bryan Hilbert, along with his team, used their state-of-the-art video endoscope to examine Kwanzaa’s nasal passages.

Horses and rhinos are distantly related. Dr Bryant said as well as both having hooves and a similar gastrointestinal tract, their upper respiratory anatomy is quite similar.

After Kwanzaa was anaesthetised, the team spent about two hours examining his nasal passages for the cause of the bleed before x-rays were taken of his head.

“We’ve managed to rule out serious potential causes inside the respiratory passages. I doesn’t appear to be any cancerous lumps that are bleeding or any nasty infections we can see,” Dr Bryant said.

“We still don’t have an exact answer but at the moment Kwanzaa is not bleeding, his bleeding has stopped, he’s normal, he’s eating well, he’s interested in the females, which is really important, and we’ll discuss with our colleagues from CSU about a further plan going forward.”

It took two weeks of planning to undertake the procedure.

“Rhinos anesthesia is a serious undertaking but we do a lot of it here. We’re a zoo with a focus on rhino conservation and obviously Professor Brain and his team are at the top of their game when it comes to the equine veterinary world,” Dr Bryant said.

Dr Hilbert said it was his first time working with a rhinoceros and it had been a learning experience.

The Associate Professor said he hoped the partnership between Charles Sturt University and the zoo would be ongoing.

In the coming days samples from Kwanzaa’s respiratory passages and the x-rays will be analysed.