Rajah the greater one-horned rhino captured the hearts of staff, volunteers and visitors alike in his short time at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
Rajah made history in 2015 as the first greater one-horned rhino calf to be born in Australia.
On Monday the zoo announced he had passed away at the weekend, due to complications from tetanus. He was almost two years old.
“Rajah initially presented with mild inflammation of the eyelid,” the zoo said in a statement.
“When he rapidly developed more serious symptoms, and was unable to eat or drink, zoo vets made a working diagnosis of tetanus, an extremely rare and almost unheard of diagnosis in rhinos.
“Over the course of last week the zoo’s dedicated veterinary and keeping teams made every effort to save Rajah. He received intensive care including fluids, antibiotics, anti toxins, other medications and nutrition as his illness progressed.
“He fought bravely throughout and although the team remained cautiously optimistic of a positive outcome, on Saturday afternoon his condition declined significantly.
“With his welfare seriously compromised, the decision was made to humanely euthanise Rajah on compassionate grounds.”
All tests conducted thus far support the diagnosis of tetanus, the zoo has said, and Rajah’s is the first case of tetanus in a rhino at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
At the time, the greater one-horned rhinoceros was classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List with as few as 2700 left in the wild.
“This birth is a credit to years of work by the zoo's dedicated life sciences team to successfully introduce [Amala to resident male Dora], an introduction which has produced a healthy calf following Amala's 15-month gestation,” Matthew Fuller, the zoo’s director at the time, said.
“We're the only zoo in Australia to have three species of rhino, and three successful rhino breeding programs, so critical for these species that are all threatened in the wild.”
The calf was given the name Rajah, meaning prince.
Rajah remained behind the scenes with his mother to bond as keepers and vets monitored his progress, and in February 2015 he made his public debut.
By then he weighed a 170 kilograms, despite being just four months old.
“It has been unbelievable, he's so brave and so adventurous,” zoo keeper Andrew Clow said at the time.
“He comes straight out and comes straight up to new people, he's not very scared of anything ever.
“Each step of the training that we've done with him, he has done it way ahead of what thought he'd do. It's all about building up...trust between him and us.”
The relationship between keeper and animal would have been crucial once Rajah was fully grown (in excess of 2000 kilograms). It had been hoped Rajah would become an active member of the global insurance population for his species.
“The Taronga Western Plains Zoo team is absolutely devastated by this loss,” the zoo’s statement concluded.
“Rajah was a part of the zoo family and this has been a heart breaking loss for Taronga staff and volunteers.”