Chopper the baby rhino debuts at ABQ zoo

Posted at: 02/16/2013 7:36 PM
By: Maria Guerrero, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The baby-proofing is done.

Chopper the Rhino made his much anticipated public debut Saturday morning at the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo.

It’s now playtime for the 584-pound white rhinoceros calf and hundreds of people made their way to the BioPark in the morning to catch a glimpse of the zoo’s newest ambassador tromping into his new home.

The 15-week old calf wasn’t able to bond with his mother, so he was sent to Albuquerque from Florida in November and was bottle-fed.

Zoo officials said he drinks up to 12-gallons of milk a day.

"It's great for the public to get a chance to see them and maybe get a spark of conservation for these guys because they're doing OK in the wild but rhinos as a species are not doing well," said Rhonda Saiers, the zoo’s hoofstock and elephant manager.

Zoo officials explained it’s still not known when Chopper will join the three adult rhinos at the zoo.

"Right now we're seeing fabulous interaction,” said Saiers. “Our females just talk away at him it's so cute. They sound like dolphins, squeaking and squealing at each other, the male is even interested in him."

After his debut, the Saiers says they’ll try to have Chopper outside everyday about mid-morning (10 a.m. and on) as long as he’s up for it and it’s not too cold for him.

“It's a change,” said Allie Chamberlain. “You always want changes at the zoo, something new and exciting for the kids."

Chopper was named in honor of a Las Cruces community leader, the late Jimmy “Chopper” Abalos, during a competition.

His widow, Tracy Abalos, and a group of friends made the trip to Albuquerque to see the calf.

"I know if he was here today, he would be, I know he's here today,” she said. “It's just very exciting for me.”