Great things are expected from Harapen (also known as Harry), an 8-year-old male Sumatran rhino born in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, who safely arrived in the Sumatra region of Indonesia on Sunday November 1st, 2015. He is one of three successful Sumatran rhino births resulting form the zoo’s breeding program. His sister, Suci, died from an illness last year. Sumatran rhinos are the only Asian rhinoceros that has two horns and is the smallest species of rhinos. Not only was Harapen the last Sumatran rhino in captive care in the United States, but actually the last Sumatran rhino in the Western hemisphere. The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden was the only captive breeding program in the United States that successfully produced Sumatran rhino calves.
While this means the ending of the Sumatran rhino-breeding program for the Cincinnati zoo, it provides hope that the critically endangered Sumatran Rhino can begin to make a comeback. Currently there are fewer than 100 Sumatran Rhinos left in the world as a result of a decimated habitat resulting from deforestation. Farmers are practicing forest clearing by illegal logging and burning of forests for Palm oil and pulp plantations. Poaching is also a major concern as these animals are killed for their horns. Their horns are used in traditional Chinese medicine. This has significantly decreased 90% of the Sumatran rhino population since the 1980’s.
Before his trip the 1,800-pound Sumatran rhino was trained to walk into a travel crate that was specially made for this trip. He was also trained to stay in the crate voluntarily. In addition to his training, Harapen underwent a medical physical before he got his pre-travel clearance.
Harapen, whose name means hope, made a 10,000-mile journey to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park in Indonesia. The sanctuary is on 100-hectares on Sumatra island. This journey took place over land, air, and sea and took over 50 hours (including stops) to complete his journey. He traveled in style along side a veteran Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden Keeper Paul Reinhart and veterinarian Jenny Nollman. In-travel meals included apples, bananas, pears, and six cases of ficus. When Harapen arrived at the Sumatran Rhino sanctuary and he was doing fantastic after the long trip. He came out of his crate looking perky. He was walking around and snacking.
Indonesian officials were egger to welcome Harapen to their sanctuary because they did not want to be dependent on other countries for conservation efforts where rhinos were bred abroad. Additionally, they welcome advances in reproductive technology and scientific assistance with their breeding program. Terri Roth, the director of the zoo’s Center for Conservation and research of Endangered Wildlife said that the zoo knows that “the opportunity to breed in Sumatra is the right thing to do for the species.”
After acclimating to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, Harapen will join his brother Andalas, who has one male offspring, and three females at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary. Conservationists hope that he will mate with one or more females that currently reside in the sanctuary and help start a desperately needed population boost. The staff at the sanctuary is hopeful that he will have an eye for Rosa, because their spunky and feisty personalities match. The staff is fully trained on how to use ultrasound to determine when females are ready to breed. When the timing is right, Harapen will be introduced to Rosa and the staff are hopeful that breeding will be successful. In addition to the breeding program, the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary has partnered with the International Rhino Foundation that has dedicated ‘rhino protection units’ to patrol the sanctuary to maintain an anti-poaching campaign. With the protection and conservation practices in place coupled with some luck, the Sumatran rhino can be brought back from the brink of extinction.