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Category — Sumatran Rhino

A History of the Zoo’s Sumatran Rhino Breeding Program

The Sumatran rhino is considered the most endangered of all rhino species and perhaps the most endangered large mammal on Earth. It is estimated that no more than 100 animals exist on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. The Zoo has worked for more than 30 years to save this species from extinction. Scientific breakthroughs by scientists at the Zoo’s Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) resulted in the birth of three calves at the Zoo, the first place to successfully breed this critically endangered species in captivity in over a century.

Sumatran rhino named Harapan (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Sumatran rhino named Harapan (Photo: Kathy Newton)

By 2014, only one Sumatran rhino remained in the Western hemisphere, a lone male named Harapan. With no chance to bring a female to the United States, the Zoo made the difficult yet significant decision to send Harapan to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia and transported him there in late October. There he will have the chance to mate and contribute to the survival of his species. It is the end of an era at the Cincinnati Zoo, but a fresh new hope for the Sumatran rhino. The Cincinnati Zoo remains committed to saving the Sumatran rhino by supporting Rhino Protection Units in the wild and continuing to lend support to the breeding program at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary.

Join me in a celebration of the milestones achieved by the Zoo’s Sumatran rhino breeding program over the past 30 years, with special thanks to the tireless dedication and commitment of Dr. Terri Roth, her team of CREW scientists, and the rhino keepers.

Dr. Terri Roth (Photo: Tom Uhlman)

Dr. Terri Roth (Photo: Tom Uhlman)

Sumatran Rhino Breeding Program Timeline

1984 – The Zoo officially formed a partnership (The Sumatran Rhino Trust Agreement) with Indonesia to establish a Sumatran rhino captive breeding program.

1989 – The Zoo received its first Sumatran rhino, a female named Mahatu.

1991 – The Zoo received its first male Sumatran rhino, Ipuh.  Unfortunately, initial breeding attempts with Mahatu were unsuccessful and she passed away in 1992.

Ipuh enjoys his browse.

Ipuh enjoys his browse.

1995 – The Zoo received a new female Sumatran rhino named Emi.

1996 – CREW scientists initiated research into the reproductive physiology of Sumatran rhinos using endocrinology and ultrasonography.

Dr. Roth conducts an ultrasound on Emi

Dr. Roth conducts an ultrasound on Emi

1997 – The first successful mating was achieved with Emi and Ipuh. Unfortunately, she lost the pregnancy by day 42 of gestation.

Ipuh and Emi

Ipuh and Emi

1998-1999 – Four additional pregnancies were confirmed by ultrasound; all were lost by three months of gestation.

2000 – A sixth pregnancy was confirmed. This time, Emi was prescribed a hormone supplement.

September 13, 2001 – Success! Emi gave birth to the first Sumatran rhino calf bred and born in captivity in 112 years. He was named Andalas.

Andalas, just one day old (Photo: David Jenike)

Andalas, just one day old (Photo: David Jenike)

July 30, 2004 – Emi gave birth to a second calf, a female named Suci.

Emi and her second calf, Suci (Photo: David Jenike)

Emi and her second calf, Suci (Photo: David Jenike)

February 19, 2007 – Andalas was relocated to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia with the goal of breeding with a female there.

Dr. Roth visits Andalas at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary

Dr. Roth visits Andalas at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary

April 29, 2007 – A third calf, a male named Harapan, was born at the Zoo to Emi.

Newborn Harapan sticks close to his mom's side.

Newborn Harapan sticks close to his mom’s side.

September 5, 2009 – Sadly, Emi passed away due to hemochromatosis, or iron storage disease. Her legacy lives on.

2010 – Andalas bred his mate, Ratu, producing the first pregnancy for the Indonesian breeding program. Unfortunately, Ratu lost her first pregnancy.

2011 – Ratu conceived for the third time and was prescribed the same hormone supplement successfully employed with Emi at the Cincinnati Zoo in the effort to produce Andalas.

June 23, 2012 – Ratu gave birth to a calf named Andatu at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary; he is the first captive bred and born Sumatran rhino in Southeast Asia.

Ratu and her calf, Andatu, at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary.

Ratu and her calf, Andatu, at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary.

February 2013 – Ipuh passes away from thyroid cancer at the approximate age of 33 years old. He was one of the oldest Sumatran rhinos in captivity.

March 30, 2014 – Sadly, Suci passes away from hemochromatosis, the same iron storage disease that befell her mother. Though Suci never reproduced, she contributed much to the body of knowledge we now have on Sumatran rhino development and maturation.

October 2014 – To carry on Ipuh’s legacy, his preserved remains are displayed at the Cincinnati Museum Center as part of the zoology collection.

2014 – The Zoo provided matching funds that contributed to a Debt for Nature deal struck between the United States and Indonesia. In return for lowering debt owed to the United States, Indonesia will commit nearly $12.7 million towards the conservation and protection of critically endangered species, including the Sumatran rhino, and their habitats over the next seven years.

October 2015 – Harapan made his journey from the Cincinnati Zoo to Sumatra. The hope is that he can breed with a female at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary and contribute to the survival of his species. Good luck, Harry!  Video of Harapan’s journey to Sumatra.

Harapan settles into his new home in Sumatra.

Harapan settles into his new home in Sumatra.

May 2016 – Expected birth date of Andalas and Ratu’s second calf in Indonesia!

Andatu and Ratu at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary

Andatu and Ratu at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary

December 1, 2015   No Comments

Coming Up: Rhino Awareness Days and Bowling for Rhinos

Rhino Awareness Days

World Rhino Day falls on a Tuesday this year, September 22, so the Zoo is going to celebrate Rhino Awareness Days, free with regular Zoo admission, the following weekend. From 10:00 to 3:00 on September 26 and 27, guests are invited to learn more about rhinos and how we can help save them in the wild.

World Rhino Day logo

CREW Volunteers will be on hand at the Sumatran rhino exhibit to tell Harapan’s story, the last Sumatran rhino on exhibit in the United States. Here guests can catch a last glimpse of Harapan before he leaves for Indonesia and wish him well on his journey. With less than 100 Sumatran rhinos left on Earth, Harapan will move to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary where he will have the opportunity to breed and contribute to his species’ survival. His departure marks the end of an era for the Cincinnati Zoo’s Sumatran rhino breeding program, the only captive breeding program in the United States to produce calves for this critically endangered species. An exact date for Harapan’s departure has not been set, but the Zoo is pushing for the move to happen this fall. Until then, guests can visit him in Wildlife Canyon daily from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., weather permitting.

Speaking of Harapan’s departure, there’s exciting news about his brother, and Cincinnati Zoo born Sumatran rhino, Andalas. The critically-endangered Sumatran rhino population will soon increase by one.  In a species with fewer than 100 individuals left on the planet, one is a significant number. Andalas and Ratu are expecting a calf in May 2016. Learn more and see ultra sound images here

We're going to miss Harapan's adorable face and hope the females in Indonesia find him irresistible!  (Photo: Kathy Newton)

We’re going to miss Harapan’s adorable face and hope the females in Indonesia find him irresistible! (Photo: Kathy Newton)

On the other side of the Zoo, guests can engage with Volunteer Educators at the CREW Wild Discover Zone to learn more about all of our rhino research programs. CREW is currently undertaking a project to expand access and build capacity for African and Asian rhino reproductive care within North American zoological facilities. The Zone is set up next to the Indian and black rhino exhibits where guests might get the chance to say hello to our newest rhino resident, a black rhino male named Faru.

Faru is doing great here in his new home and his training is going very well. The keepers are working with him to present both sides of his body  on cue and open his mouth to allow them to check his teeth and tongue. This allows them to perform basic foot care, daily baths, and administer medical care when needed with minimal stress to Faru. He and the female, Seyia, are still getting to know each other, and the hope is to put them together for breeding later this fall.

Welcome Faru to the Zoo! (Photo: Mark Dumont)

Welcome Faru to the Zoo! (Photo: Mark Dumont)

The keepers are also working with CREW to determine the reproductive cycle of our one and only Indian rhino, Manjula, using ultrasound and urine analysis. Manjula is chute-trained, target-trained, and she will hold her mouth open while they shine a flashlight inside to check everything. This training has been essential to administering the hormone to help her ovulate and also give the anesthetics used for her standing sedation procedures- both of which she does willingly and cooperatively! The plan is to artificially inseminate Manjula. The keepers are also currently working on blood draw training and teaching Manjula to stand her rear feet in rubber tubs for a foot soak. (Indian rhinos are prone to foot issues.)

Manjula, Indian rhino (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Manjula, Indian rhino (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Bowling for Rhinos

What else can you do to help save rhinos? Go bowling! The Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers is holding its second annual Bowling for Rhinos event on October 17 to raise awareness and funds for rhino conservation.To be held from 6:00 to 8:30 at Stone Lanes in Norwood, the event is sure to be tons of fun! In addition to bowling, there will be t-shirts for sale, a silent auction and a raffle to meet a rhino at the Cincinnati Zoo! Buy your tickets online now before they sell out!

Bowling for Rhinos 2015 flyer

September 24, 2015   No Comments

A Study to Honor Suci the Sumatran Rhino

The loss of our female Sumatran rhino “Suci” to iron storage disease just over a year ago on March 30, 2014 was a devastating blow to the Cincinnati Zoo’s Sumatran rhino breeding program. Iron storage disease is an insidious disease affecting many wildlife species that are maintained in zoos, ranging from marine mammals to birds. In addition to Sumatran rhinos, black rhinos are susceptible to the disease, whereas white rhinos and Indian rhinos remain largely unaffected.

Suci

Suci

The disease is extremely challenging because we do not know how to prevent it, diagnose it or treat it. The only known cure for the disease is frequent, large volume phlebotomies (blood collection), but nobody knows how much blood to draw or how often it must be removed to keep a rhino healthy, and it is difficult to perform phlebotomies without anesthesia. The best method for monitoring iron storage disease is to measure serum concentrations of ferritin, a protein involved in iron transport and storage, but ferritin can be species-specific, so an assay for humans or horses may not work accurately in rhinos. Such was the case with our Sumatran rhinos.

Electrophoresis gel of isolated rhino ferritin

Electrophoresis gel of isolated rhino ferritin

However, thanks to a dear family committed to helping rhinos that wanted to make a gift in honor of Suci, CREW has embarked on a new study to develop an assay specific for measuring rhino ferritin. The first step – isolating the rhino ferritin protein – is complete, and our goal is to have a functional assay by this coming summer. Our hope is that the assay will be used to monitor iron storage status in many rhinos throughout North American zoos to ensure the disease is detected before the rhino becomes sick.

This project was made possible by the generous donation of Mr. and Mrs. Jeremy S. Hilton and Family.

(Reprinted from CREW Review Fall 2014)

April 3, 2015   4 Comments