Christine Janks extends her hand to pet Henry who stands in his pond at the conservation foundation. Janks is hoping to have Henry’s shelter rebuilt as soon as possible to protect him from low temperatures. (Katie Mellinger/WUFT News)

Fire Destroys Rhino Home at Carson Springs


Charred rubble is all that remains of Henry’s home.

In an electrical fire Sunday, the 35-year-old lost everything to his name, but was spared his life because of the quick thinking of his best friend Barry.

Henry, a 4,600 lb. Indian Rhinoceros, was lounging under his wooden shelter when a fire broke out, startling both him and his handlers at Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation.

Burnt rubble is all that remains of Henry’s former home. The Janks estimate that it will take $20,000 to $25,000 to rebuild the shelter. (Katie Mellinger/WUFT News)

Henry came to Carson Springs from the Tanganyika Animal Park in Wichita, Kansas, on Nov. 19, 2016, to relax after serving as the leading Indian Rhino breeder in the country, said Barry Janks, who founded the non-profit shelter with his wife, Christine Janks.

“Henry has at least 30 children in the U.S. and close to 60 grandchildren,” Barry Janks said. “I guarantee every Indian Rhino in the U.S., the younger ones, they’re all Henry’s babies.”

Sunday was anything but relaxing for the rhino as his home was engulfed in flames and smoke within just 10 seconds, Barry Janks said.

After hearing about the flames from a volunteer, Barry Janks rushed to the enclosure from his neighboring home and tirelessly worked to move Henry to safety.

“I was just horrified for him… That’s his house, his home. Even though he likes to stay out here most of the time. They feel safe in their place,” Barry Janks said. “All I could think about was just keeping him from going back in.”

While Barry Janks handled Henry, firefighters battled the blaze and Christine took control of a quick construction project: building a fence to keep Henry contained.

“(With the) building gone, 20 percent of his fence is gone, and he is essentially loose,” Christine Janks said.

With the fence in progress, Barry Janks guided Henry to his pond.

Henry the Indian Rhino hydrates himself in his enclosure. Henry’s home was destroyed in an electrical fire Sunday. (Katie Mellinger/WUFT News)

“Animals, when they fear something, they want to go is the place they feel safe. And the place he feels safe is his stall in the building,” Christine Janks said. “Regardless of what else is going on he thinks the best thing for him to do is to get into the building, and so it really took a lot for Barry to turn him away from the building and convince him to follow him down by the water.”

Henry made it out of the fire mostly unscathed, minus a few scratches. Barry Janks, on the other hand, tore several ligaments in his foot.

Despite his need for medical attention, Barry Janks stayed by Henry’s side, plopping himself at the edge of Henry’s pound. There, Barry Janks comforted the frightened rhino for 4.5 hours until Henry finally decided to have a bite to eat.

Barry Janks, co-founder of Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation, feeds Henry the Rhino. Henry has only been living under the care of Janks and his wife Christine since November, but the pairs bond is strong as can be. (Katie Mellinger/WUFT News)

“When he went to eat, I knew things were good. Henry was back to his normal self,” Barry Janks said.

While Henry’s appetite has returned to normal, Christine Janks says the rhino is still anxious because of his destroyed home.

The Janks are hoping to clear the debris and rebuild Henry’s home as soon as possible, especially with the looming drop in temperatures.

“He cannot take cold weather at all, so even down to the 50s and 40s is hard on him, especially since he’s a really old man,” Christine Janks said.

To cover the costs which are estimated to be from $20,000 to $25,000, the Janks have started a gofundme page. They have already raised close to $4,000.

“Gainesville, Alachua County, is just an amazing place to live. What a town? What a people?” Barry Janks said.

About Katie Mellinger

Katie is a reporter at WUFT News who can be contacted by email at

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