Rhino Dug up Near Picnic Point
May 15, 2002 – Madison, WI
UW-Madison researchers began unearthing the bones of a 14 feet long, 3,200-pound rare white
rhinoceros. The female rhino corpse was buried in 1983 to let nature take its course and remove all
the flesh. Researchers dug it up in 1995, but it wasn't ready yet so the crew reburied her.
Carcasses destined for the Zoological Museum's bone collection are usually fed to the museum's insect
colonies, whose job is to pick the bones clean. But some are just too much for the flesh-eating
beetles, so they go into the ground instead. Princess, an elephant, only took about seven years
(1981-87) because most of the flesh had been removed ahead of time. The rhinoceros, on the other hand,
had been buried almost fully intact. The purpose of burial is to let bacteria and insects naturally
eat away the flesh and make the skeletal bones accessible for study.
The rhino, Mahlusa, died of pancreatitus at the age of 26 at the Milwaukee County Zoo. She originally
came from a game preserve in Natal, South Africa. Her bones will be cleaned, labeled and shelved in
the campus Zoological Museum for researchers to examine. The skeleton will not be reassembled. The
head was removed before burial to preserve the horn which is not bone.
A giraffe has also been buried near Picnic Point.