Mo the giant anteater is now sharing the Greenville Zoo’s new South American Pampas exhibit with a male and a female rhea, which arrived from New York on Saturday. Rheas are large, flightless birds, similar to an ostrich, that are native to South America and live in its open grasslands and Chaco woodlands. Adult male rheas can be up to 67 inches tall at the head and can weigh up to 88 pounds. Unlike most birds, rheas only have three toes, and in spite of being flightless, have an eight-foot wing span, and use their wings like sails when they run.
The rheas were hatched within 12 days of each other at Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn, New York in March 2012. The rheas were transferred to the Queens Zoo on April 30, 2012, and have spent the past three and a half years together. Last year, the male rhea lost 2/3 of his upper beak due to an injury, but with the help of a specialized feeder that his keepers constructed, he learned to feed himself by scooping up his food in his lower beak instead of pecking at it. Because of the rheas’ close relationship, the Queens Zoo did not want to split them up, so the Greenville Zoo agreed to take them both, in spite of the male’s need for specialized care.
According to zoo director Jeff Bullock, the addition of the rheas is another important step in creating the largest mixed species exhibit to date and allowing the zoo to focus on an ecosystem rather than individual species. Zoo staff also looks forward to helping the male rhea, who they are calling “Scoops,” to adapt to his new surroundings and flourish in spite of his disability. “We’re all impressed with Scoops, especially since we think he may have been defending the female from a nighttime predator when he was hurt,” said Bullock. “Before coming here, the rheas had been kept in an off-exhibit holding area, so this is a great opportunity for them to be back in the limelight, sharing the stage with Mo.”