Rhinoceros joins zoo for Electric Safari

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This year’s Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Electric Safari is showcasing a heavy-hitter, a 2,658-pound eastern black rhinoceros named Jumbe.

The “big guy” arrived just in time for visitors to get their first glimpse during the zoo’s annual Electric Safari lighting event, which begins Dec. 7.

The big guy is a big deal because the zoo is expecting he will attract more visitors, who are already turning out in record numbers.

More than 600,000 people visited the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo during its 2011/2012 season — about 33,000 more than the previous year.

Zoo keepers say Jumbe’s horn can be used to push around a boomer ball, toss a tire in the air and root around in the dirt.

The five-foot, dark brown rhino came to the zoo from Caldwell Zoo in Texas, traveling on a flatbed truck in a specially made crate. He takes up residence with four elephants in the Wilgruen Elephant Center located within Encounter Africa — the zoo’s $13.5 million exhibit.

The big guy quickly became a popular addition.

“Jumbe has a very calm demeanor – which is unique for a young male rhino,” said Tracy Thessing, the zoo’s director of animal collections. “He has adapted quickly to our staff, to his new home and to the elephants. Our girls are still very curious about their new neighbor, though. They get excited or run over to check him out whenever they hear him snort.”

Electric Safari, will be open 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 7-9 and Dec. 14-Jan. 1. It’s closed Christmas Eve.