Dozens of Veterinarians Called in to Put Cast on 2-Ton Rhino’s Broken Toe at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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Even animals need help mending broken bones -- they just need a little more of it.

A 4,500-pound southern white rhino with a fractured toe is on the mend thanks to the help of a team of nearly 40 veterinarians and animal specialists who gave him a new cast at San Diego Zoo's Safari Park, officials said Monday.

The injury was originally picked up last month during a routine check-up on the animal, named Maoto, according to a news release from the Safari Park.

An X-ray examination confirmed the broken toe, and a cast was placed on Maoto's foot to help the bone heal.

This week, dozens of veterinarians helped perform the third casting procedure on the large rhino's foot. It's an involved process where the team gives him anesthesia, removes the old cast, get new X-rays and assesses Maoto's overall health before fitting him with a new cast, according to the release.

And in order to ensure it doesn't break under his weight -- Maoto does, after all, weigh over two tons -- the special protective "boot" is fortified with a car tire tread that's incorporated into the bottom of the cast, zoo officials said.

Maoto is continuing to heal, even standing and remaining motionless in a special corridor while the animal care team performs cast adjustments with the aid of anesthesia.

"During the past six weeks, Maoto has been able to move around easily and still maintain a positive demeanor through the entire process," lead keeper Jonnie Capiro said in the release. "He's been an outstanding patient along the way!"

Maoto resides at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center and has been a key contributor in the zoo's efforts to save the endangered species, according to officials.

He is the father of a southern white rhino calf named Edward who became the first successful artificial insemination birth when he was born this past July 28.

"Edward’s birth represented a critical step in the organization’s ongoing work to develop the scientific knowledge required to genetically recover the northern white rhino, a distant subspecies of the southern white rhino," the release read. "Only two northern white rhinos currently remain on Earth and, unfortunately, both are female."

An estimated 18,000 southern white rhinos remain in the wild, and they are classified as "near threatened" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, according to the zoo.

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