Someone new is joining the ranks of fitness enthusiasts who track their daily step count with Fitbits and other fitness trackers. Only Helen isn’t human: she’s a 30-year-old white rhino at Walt Disney World.
Helen stepped out into the savannah at Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction on Monday wearing a fitness machine all day.
The goal is to collect data on how many steps she takes each day, whether she walks, runs or naps, and which part of the artificial savannah she prefers. The device, about a foot (0.3 meters) in diameter, has an accelerometer and a GPS tracker and it is fitted around his ankle.
The data it produces will be shared with more than two dozen other institutions participating in a massive research project studying the best ways to care for rhinos at the facilities, said Scott Terrell, a veterinarian who serves as director of animal operations. and scientists, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts.
“By doing this research and using this technology, we can really focus on rhino fitness as a component of their health and well-being,” Terrell said.
The tracker consists of a belt with a small pouch with attached electronic components. Her caretakers had tried to get Helen used to the device by wearing it for a limited time, then extending that time.
If Helen continues to seem comfortable wearing the device, which will be removed at night, two-thirds of Animal Kingdom’s nine white rhinos will end up wearing the devices on the savannah.
About 27,000 rhinos remain in the wild, mostly in national parks and reserves. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, three species – black, Javanese and Sumatranian – are critically endangered due to poaching.
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