CREW’s Signature Sumatran Rhino Project
The Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is one of the most endangered animals on earth with fewer than 200 individuals distributed throughout fragmented rainforests of South East Asia. The goal of the Sumatran rhino program is to keep the rhinos safe in the wild while establishing a successful international captive breeding program. In 1984, a captive breeding program was formally established for this species, but efforts to propagate these rhinos in captivity initially failed. In 1997, CREW scientists initiated research using endocrinology and ultrasonography to learn about the reproductive physiology of the species. As a result, scientific breakthroughs led to the first Sumatran rhino calf bred and born in captivity in 112 years at the Cincinnati Zoo on September 13, 2001.
Since the birth of that first calf, two additional calves have been produced in Cincinnati. Then in 2007, the Cincinnati Zoo’s first-born Sumatran rhino calf, Andalas, was relocated to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) on the island of Sumatra, and in June 2012, Andalas’s mate, Ratu, gave birth to a healthy male calf. This series of successful births clearly demonstrates how productive a captive breeding program can be when it incorporates good science, veterinary care, animal husbandry and international cooperation. The Cincinnati Zoo and its Indonesian partner, the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, are the only two places in the world that have succeeded in breeding the Sumatran rhino in the last century. In addition to its leadership role in the Sumatran rhino captive breeding program, CREW scientists partner with other conservation organizations (Rhino Global Partnerships) to protect Sumatran rhinos in the wild by helping to support Rhino Protection Units (RPUs). These RPUs are trained to protect the rhinos from poachers, the greatest threat to the species. Furthermore, financial support and CREW staff expertise are provided to facilitate the captive breeding program on Sumatra. CREW’s Signature Sumatran Rhino Project with its international collaboration is conservation work at its finest.
Cincinnati Zoo Sumatran Rhinos
Emi, In Loving Memory
Emi, the Sumatran rhino that made history by producing three calves at the Cincinnati Zoo from 2001 – 2008 passed away in her sleep on September 5, 2009. No animal at the Zoo was more beloved than this amazing rhino who contributed more to saving her species than any other Sumatran rhino in the world. Because Emi was so docile and amiable, CREW scientists were able to study her in depth and unravel the mysteries of Sumatran rhino reproduction which led to our successful breeding program….the only one in the world until 2012 when Emi’s first calf sired a baby in Sumatra. Although Emi left us too early, her legacy lives on in her three beautiful healthy calves and her new “grandson”. Emi’s first born, Andalas, was returned to Sumatra to serve as the catalyst for a breeding program in the species’ native land. Her only daughter, Suci, remains at the Cincinnati Zoo and her youngest son, Harapan, is growing up in California at the Los Angeles Zoo. Her grandson, Andatu, is the first Sumatran rhino born in captivity on the island of Sumatra. Those of us who had the privilege to work with Emi will never forget her playful personality, her spirit when facing her mate, Ipuh, or the care she demonstrated when raising her calves. Emi may have left us too early, but the memories she created will last a lifetime and will provide endless inspiration to those of us striving to save the Sumatran rhino.
Ipuh Lives On
Ipuh was believed to be one of the oldest Sumatran rhinos in captivity when he died in 2013. He was one of the last three original 40 Sumatran rhinos captured to establish the captive breeding program in 1984. He literally turned this failing captive breeding program into an international success.
Ipuh, Emi’s mate and father of her three calves, called the Cincinnati Zoo his home for about 22 years. Ipuh became a grandfather when his first born calf was transported back to his homeland island of Sumatra and bred a female rhino at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary who subsequently gave birth to a healthy male calf in 2012.
The first Sumatran rhino semen ever collected and cryopreserved was from Ipuh. CREW’s CryoBioBank contains straws of his semen that have been frozen for over 10 years. Therefore, not only will his calves and their offspring continue to provide hope for his species, but Ipuh himself may continue to sire calves even after his death.
Dr. Terri Roth, Director of CREW, and others around the world continue to work to secure a future for the critically endangered Sumatran rhino - “Our hope is that we can honor Ipuh by continuing to build on the legacy that he left behind, through his sons and daughters, as well as the scientific advancements that he contributed to in life”.
Andalas Carrying on the Legacy in His Native Home
In 2007, the Cincinnati Zoo’s first-born Sumatran rhino calf, Andalas, was relocated to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) on the island of Sumatra. Weighing in at 770 kg (~1700 lbs), Andalas is the largest rhino at the reserve and is bigger than his father, Ipuh (here in Cincinnati). Andalas has maintained his childhood love of people and the attention they give him. He is the most well behaved rhino in the reserve for blood collection, foot exams, ultrasound exams and many other hands-on procedures that help the staff maintain his excellent health. Andalas has never been sick or seriously injured and he has adapted to the new forest environment, the change in diet and exposure to many new insects that he hadn’t encountered in the US, without a hitch.
Andalas has clearly benefited from the outstanding care and wonderful home the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary provides. But Andalas was not just sent to Sumatra, his ancestral home, to hang out in the rain forest. The SRS is also home to three females and the conservationists hoped that eventually Andalas would sire calves with one or more of the females. After numerous introductions, Andalas and Ratu successfully bred in 2011 and she became pregnant. In June 2012, the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) and the Cincinnati Zoo were pleased to announce the birth of a healthy male Sumatran rhino calf! The calf was born to mother, Ratu, a 12-year-old Sumatran rhino living at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia’s Way Kambas National Park and father, “Andalas,” born at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2001 and the first Sumatran Rhino calf born in captivity in 112 years. Full story >
Suci Following in Her Mother’s Footsteps
Emi and Ipuh, the parents of Andalas, successfully bred a second time in April 2003 at the Cincinnati Zoo. Suci was born in 2004 validating the science that led to the birth of her brother, Andalas, the first Sumatran rhino calf born in captivity in 112 years. Like her brother, Suci was the subject of a behavior study which was published in a peer reviewed journal. The behavior study involved countless hours of observation by trained, dedicated volunteers who logged specific behaviors at specific time intervals.
Subsequently, Suci was the focus of a 6 year study to determine when a female Sumatran rhino reaches sexual maturation. This study involved regular ultrasound exams of the ovaries and the analysis of a normal animal by-product (i.e. Suci’s fecal matter) over a number of years. Specific hormones were extracted from the fecal samples and measured over the years to determine when Suci became sexually mature. The results are being summarized for another scientific paper.
CREW scientists are continuing to work with Suci to help save her species from extinction. Like her mother, Emi, Suci is currently undergoing regular ultrasound examinations. At appropriate intervals, Suci is being artificially inseminated by CREW scientists using frozen sperm. We are all hoping that Suci will continue to follow in her mother’s footsteps and that she too will become a mother soon.
Harapan Waiting for his Destiny to be Decided
Harapan was born in 2007 to parents Emi and Ipuh, who are the only captive rhino pair to have three offspring. Harapan is quickly growing up in California at the Los Angeles Zoo. Plans for Harapan are still being discussed by conservationists. Stay tuned to find out where his future lies. Will he return to his native land like his older brother, Andalas? Will the Indonesian or Malaysian governments allow one of their female Sumatran rhinos to come to the United States to mate with Harapan? With so few Sumatran rhinos in the world, each member of the captive population must play a critical role in the race to bring this magnificent species back from the brink of extinction.
In June 2012 the International Rhino Foundation(IRF) and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden announced the birth of a male Sumatran rhino calf in Sumatra. This is the first birth of a Sumatran rhino in an Indonesian facility and the first birth in an Asian facility in 124 years.
The calf’s mother is Ratu, a 12-year-old Sumatran rhino living at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia’s Way Kambas National Park. His father is Andalas, born at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2001 and the first Sumatran Rhino calf born in captivity in 112 years.
In 2007 Andalas was sent to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary with the hope that he would eventually sire calves with one or more of the females at the SRS……and he succeeded! The male calf is named Andatu, an Indonesian word meaning gift of god and a combination of his father’s and mother’s name. Andatu stood about an hour after birth and began nursing almost immediately. Ratu is a very good mother. The birth was attended by Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary veterinarians and keepers as well as advisors from the Cincinnati Zoo and Taronga Conservation Society Australia.
“To say that we are thrilled is an understatement,” said Dr. Terri Roth, Vice President of Conservation and Science and Director of the Cincinnati Zoo’s Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW). “When we celebrated the monumental birth of Andalas at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2001, we never imagined he would play such a pivotal role in the survival of his species. This international collaboration is conservation work at its finest.”
According to Dr. Susie Ellis, executive director of the International Rhino Foundation, “The little guy is absolutely adorable, and none of us has been able to stop smiling since the moment we were sure he was alive and healthy. We have been waiting for this moment since the sanctuary was built in 1998. The International Rhino Foundation is honored to play an important role in protecting rhinos. We are hopeful the Sumatran rhino population will thrive once again.”
Dr. Dedi Candra, head veterinarian and animal collections manager at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, has been monitoring Ratu’s pregnancy by weighing her weekly and conducting regular ultrasound exams, using methods developed by CREW at the Cincinnati Zoo. “We have been waiting for this moment since Ratu wandered from the forest in 2005,” Candra said. Full story >
The Sumatran rhino is seriously threatened by the continuing loss of its tropical forest habitat and hunting pressure from poachers, who kill rhinos for their valuable horns. Every successful Sumatran rhino birth is critical for the survival of the species, which runs the risk of extinction by the end of this century. Let’s NOT let extinction happen!