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Celebrating the Life of Sula

October 5, 2022

Following the sad passing of one of our oldest residents, we’re celebrating the life of Sula, a much-loved member of our resident white rhinoceros crash.

Sula was 36 years old, which is an incredibly advanced age for a white rhino in captivity, and she spent most of her life at Marwell having arrived on 6 May 1988, aged just 3 years old.

Phil Robbins, Team Leader said: “Sula has been a big part of my life for the last 28 years. She was an amazing, loving animal who would always come running for attention whenever I stepped into the house.

“Adjusting to life without her is going to take time for all the keepers that cared for her.”

Keepers past and present have been sharing their stories of working with Sula, and will all miss her greatly.

Darren Ives, Senior Animal Keeper said: “She was a larger-than-life character and always dependable to make even the worst days feel better.

“Sula has always been in the paddock in front of Marwell Hall in the centre of the park and I think she will always remain in the centre of the hearts of the people who have had the pleasure of meeting and working with her.”

Sula had been unwell for a few weeks with abdominal pain and an issue with her teeth. On Tuesday 27 September our veterinary team had to anaesthetise her to investigate the problem. They identified a dental issue, which was rectified, and Sula initially made a good recovery but sadly took a turn for the worse, and the incredibly tough decision to euthanase her was made late on Tuesday night.

Zoe Newnham, Animal Keeper, said: “Sula has been at the zoo a lot longer than all of us on the team, so keepers past and present are going to miss her an awful lot. Having worked with Sula for the past 11 years there is going to be a big rhino-shaped hole in my day.

“Her mischievous and stubborn character will be missed in the rhino house, especially her knack of standing just in the way so you could not do anything until you gave her some attention and a few tickles. She also had a way of flickering her ears when called to let you know she was listening but was going to ignore you anyway. She will be especially missed by Kiri, her partner in crime, but her memory will live on.”

Kiri and Sula both arrived at Marwell three months apart and the two females have been inseparable ever since.

Ian Goodwin, Animal Collection Manager, said: “Sula will be sadly missed by myself and all the keepers that cared for her. She was a larger-than-life character. I have had the pleasure of working with her for many years and it will not be the same going into the Rhino house with her not there. Sula will also be missed by the rest of the Rhino crash, especially Kiri as they have been lifelong friends.”

Adam Ford, Senior Animal Keeper added: “She was one of the kindest animals I have worked with and will be greatly missed.”

Lisa Keywood, Animal Keeper, said: “There will only ever be one Sula. Working with her was an absolute honour, always leading the group and sorting out any trouble Kiri got herself into. Walking into the house each morning, she would rest her horn against the bars watching your every move until you fed her and gave her some attention (until Kiri got in the way of course!).

“All the rhinos, especially Kiri, and all who worked with her are going to be lost without her, it’s already incredibly quiet in the house. Will forever miss you Sula.”

The Rhino team will be keeping a very close eye on Kiri to ensure she is coping following the loss of her closest companion. Reassuringly, the two younger females have already been seen grazing with Kiri, waiting for her, and all 4 of them have been seen in the mud wallowing together.