Princess is a “geriatric” southern white rhino who resides at Utah’s Hogle Zoo. She shares an enclosure with her brother, George, and the two are some of the most popular animals to see.
Visitors stop to marvel at their size and large horns, but Princess is also turning heads with her brightly-colored fly mask.
The mask is not a fashion accessory or a coronavirus precaution, but a way to protect the rhino’s sensitive eyes.
A few years ago, Princess developed eye allergies which made her more sensitive to the sun and attracted pesky flies. Horseware, a company that designs horse gear and fly masks, stepped up to help by creating a custom mask for Princess.
It took multiple prototypes to find the perfect fit, but once they did, the zoo posted, “Our partners at Horseware graciously designed and donated not one, not two, but FOUR brand new fly masks for Princess the rhino!”
The zoo shared photos of Princess wearing her new mask for all to see and explained why a mask was necessary.
“As some of you know, Princess has eye allergies and is irritated easily by flies. The see-through material of the fly mask protects her eyes very similar to the way we use sunglasses!”
They thanked Horseware for helping Princess feel happy and comfortable once more.
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Fans loved the photos of Princess in her mask, but everyone wanted to know how the caretakers manage to get it on and off.
The zoo responded by posting a video of the process and explaining how they trained Princess to keep the mask on.
Zoo keepers Lauren and Megan have developed a trusting relationship with Princess over the years and can now put the mask on with ease.
While it looks easy now, it took months of training using positive reinforcement in the form of tasty treats and slowly introducing the mask to her.
“She’s very food motivated and loves her keepers, so that always helps as well. She’s a very good girl and very patient,” said Lauren.
Her keepers put the mask on in the morning as she eats her breakfast and then remove it at night before bedtime.
Princess is “pretty hard” on her fly mask and the recent post was showing off her brand-new masks.
Watch as the keepers put the fly mask on Princess in the video below.
Sadly, these magnificent creatures are targeted and killed by poachers for their horns. Some Asian cultures believe the horns have medicinal properties, but they are really just keratin.
The zoo offers a way for visitors to interact with Princess and George and support rhino conservation through their Wildlife Connections program. People are able to have some special one-on-one time feeding and scratching the rhinos while learning more about them and the plight they face.
100% of the proceeds from the encounter go to help rhinos in the wild.
You can help protect rhinos by signing the petition below to ban the trade of rhino horns in South Africa.
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