Sumatran rhino heading home to help save his species

Sumatran rhino

A critically endangered, Sumatran Rhino will return home to Indonesia this fall in a last ditch effort to save his species. As the only rhino in captivity outside of south-east Asia, Harapan currently has no breeding potential unless he moves to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Indonesia’s Way Kambas National Park.

Dr. Terri Roth, Director of the Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) which is located at the zoo said, “Despite the great personal sadness so many of us feel both about Harapan leaving and Cincinnati Zoo’s Sumatran rhino breeding program coming to an end, we need to focus on all we have accomplished, for there is much to celebrate. The Cincinnati Zoo has had a profound, historic impact on the effort to save this species.”

The Cincinnati Zoo definitely has had a profound impact on Sumatran rhino’s in captivity. During 2001 they became the first captive institution to breed Sumatran rhinos in captivity in 112 years. This was Andalas, Harapan’s brother who also lives at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary. They followed this up with the late Suci in 2004 and then Harapan in 2007.

Sumatran rhino

At the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary Harapan will join his brother and three suitable young bachelorettes who it is hoped he will hit it off with. Andalas already sired one calf at the centre in 2012 giving hope to this species.

Currently nine of these animals are kept in captivity with an estimate that another 90 survive in the wild. Due to the large amounts of hair covering their body they are nicknamed the ‘hairy rhino.’ They are threatened as a result of forest fragmentation which makes it difficult for them to find a mate. Already the species is considered extinct in Malaysia.

“Though the numbers are frighteningly low, Sumatran rhinos still exist in the forests of Sumatra, we believe there is still time to save them and we are by no means giving up that fight now. Ultimately, the responsibility for saving this magnificent species now lies squarely on the shoulders of our Indonesian colleagues. Our hope is that they succeed beyond all of our wildest dreams,” added Dr. Roth. “We will all rejoice when we hear news of another birth – a son or daughter of either Andalas or Harapan”

It is believed that Harapan will make the move this fall accompanied by Team Leader of Wildlife Canyon and the most experienced Sumatran rhino keeper, Paul Reinhart and the zoo’s veterinarian, Dr. Jenny Nollman. It is a complicated process though as it requires training for Harapan along with multiple permits and government co-ordination in both countries.

The zoo is committed to making this happen though as Executive director, Thane Maynard said, “The Cincinnati Zoo has been committed to saving the Sumatran rhino for 25 years, and this move only strengthens that commitment.”

Photo Credit: Cincinnati Zoo

By Cale Russell is a testament to Cale’s commitment to the education of people around the world on the topic of animals and conservation, through the sharing of topical and newsworthy information.

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