Special to the Reporter
Sometimes the word “stud” gets bandied around casually. It really means something when you are a bull white rhino who has sired 19 calves—that’s Marvin—STUDbook number 618.
He was born in the wild in South Africa and was brought to the Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 1972. He only spent two years there before going to the Knoxville Zoo where he did most of his “work.” He was in Knoxville in the prime of the great white rhino breeding years from 1974 until 1988. He sired 14 calves while there and then he took a little vacation at the Baton Rouge Zoo from 1988 until 1996. That's when he came to Fossil Rim to go back to doing what he did best.
Fossil Rim had a young female that the center wanted to have bred. White rhinos don’t usually breed after a certain age if they haven’t been breeding prior to that. So with Laptop (yes, that's her name) reaching sexual maturity, Fossil Rim wanted to make sure that it didn’t lose that window. She was born Dec. 6, 1992, and had her first calf at a little less than six years old. That’s perfect.
So Fossil Rim thought it would try a little experiment with the stud Marvin. There was a 26-year-old female at the Houston Zoo that had never had a calf. Fossil Rim wasn’t optimistic that she would breed, but knew that Marvin was a good hope for her.
She came to Glen Rose in March 1997 and had her first calf, Raka, on Nov. 25, 1999. Knowing that white rhinos have a gestation period of about 16-and-a-half months, Fossil Rim ascertained that Marvin bred her within two months of her coming out of quarantine—that’s some good work. And just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, she calved again in 2002, with her second calf from Marvin.
In all, Marvin sired five calves at Fossil Rim between 1998 and 2002. By 2006, when he was 40 years old, Fossil Rim started to see signs of old age creeping in on him. The center tested his blood and urine occasionally to monitor his health. Over the years it also modified his diet to include a ration of Equine Senior, which is a good diet for older horses. As he continued to worsen, though, Fossil Rim gave him only Equine Senior.
Last year Marvin was beginning to really show his age by losing weight, having some skin sores (similar to bed sores), arthritis and just generally getting slower. His personality was always calm and mellow and the visitors, volunteers and staff enjoyed spending time with him.
In early 2011 Fossil Rim noted that his quality of life was waning and began discussing options. Unfortunately, in the first weeks of February his health really turned for the worst and nothing the center did, or could have done, would have made things better for him.
Fossil Rim euthanized Marvin on Feb. 16. His oldest male calf, Newton, is a breeding bull at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and his youngest male calf, Fireball, is a stud at the Wilds in Ohio where he has already bred a number of their females and is a father at eight years old. Marvin’s legacy lives on.
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is a not-for-profit 501(c) 3 wildlife conservation facility that specializes in captive-breeding programs for rare and endangered animal species. It is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Located in Glen Rose, Texas, 55 miles southwest of the DFW metroplex; Fossil Rim funds its award winning conservation efforts with tourism. The center manages over 50 species of wildlife of which 16 are currently listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered. Fossil Rim offers a nine mile Scenic Wildlife Drive, unique Safari Camp lodging, guided tours, camps, Nature Store, and Café to visitors. For more information, call (254) 897-2960 or visit www.fossilrim.org.