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Cross-species camaraderie

  • Published at 02:04 pm August 27th, 2018
A rhinoceros called Kanchi living with a sheep at Mirpur Zoo Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

When a female rhino lapsed into depression after her mate died, it took a sheep to save her life

Rhinoceroses, known to be herbivores, are naturally reclusive from other animals. They usually do not share their territory with other species. However, a different scene has been brewing at Mirpur Zoo. 

A sheep and a rhinoceros have been living together for almost five years now. 

One wild and the other domestic – they have but one thing in common, they are herbivores. The eight-year-old rhinoceros is accompanied everywhere by a sheep.

Their friendship and devotion drew unusual remarks at the zoo. One of the visitors, Syful Islam, commented: “I thought the rhinoceros would eat the sheep, once it became hungry.” 

Such a remark raises the question, why is a sheep hanging out with a rhino?

When asked, Bangladesh National Zoo Curator Dr SM Nazrul Islam, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Back in 2011, we imported a pair of rhinos from a South African farmer called Menes. We named the male Kanchan and the female Kanchi. They grew up playing in harmony.

“However, in 2013, Kanchi attacked Kanchan when she was in heat. Kanchan was severely injured. Despite the zoo’s best efforts, Kanchan succumbed to his injuries and died, leaving Kanchi wracked with guilt.”

He continued: “Kanchi grew quiet and gradually stopped eating. We asked Menes for help. Kanchi’s health was deteriorating and medical reports suggested she was on the verge of collapsing.”


Menes suggested the authorities to introduce a sheep to help Kanchi. He reasoned that another herbivore, especially a domestic animal, might have a positive effect on the rhino.

The radical idea worked. Kanchi began to walk and eat again, with the sheep as her inseparable companion.

Visitors are taken aback by the relationship. Some call them a husband and wife. Some still think the sheep might be food for the rhino.

Another visitor, Helena Akter said: “I cannot find the meaning of relationship between these two animals, but it is a wonderful relationship indeed.”

A rhinoceros usually lives up to the age of 40 and Kanchi is currently eight years old. A sheep usually lives up to 10-12 years. The pair has spent five harmonious years together. The sheep could have had a life of her own but remained steadfastly dedicated to the rhino. 

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