Posts Tagged With: sumatran

The battle to save the Sumatran Rhino

For the smallest and most unique species of rhino, it is a race against time to try to re-populate the Sumatran rhino species. Indonesia and Malaysia are the only areas they are still thought to exist.

In Indonesia there are fewer than 80 left and in Malaysia, the situation is even more urgent, with only three Sumatrans remaining.


One of the three remaining Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia. Photo: Borneo Rhino Alliance

The International Rhino Foundation (IRF) supports two critical efforts in Indonesia; 1) they maintain 12 Rhino Protection Units to protect against poaching and
2)support the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS), a 250 acre area where a handful of rhinos are given the utmost of care in an intensely managed research and breeding program.

The SRS has been home to rhinos who were born from successful breeding efforts at the Cincinnati Zoo, including the latest resident, Harapan. (see previous post: The Journey of Hope)


Harapan w/ the Director of the IRF October, 2016

Yet in Malaysia, all Sumatrans are thought to be extinct in the wild. So efforts are solely focused on the only 3 rhinos left; the male, Tam, and females Puntung and Iman.

The Borneo Rhino Alliance manages the three, and shoulders one of the greatest responsibilites-creating more rhinos. As the situation is so dire, the hope lies in advanced reproductive technology.


Baby Sumatran @ Way Kambas National Park, photo: metrowebukmetro                           

Teaming up with experts from around the world, attempts are underway to create the world’s first test tube Sumatran rhino embryo and implant it into a viable surrogate.

This may be the only chance for the species, but it’s a costly endeavor. As of June 2016, the group has run out of funds, and won’t be able to continue much longer. To remain operational for the next two years, they need  USD$900’000.

To help, please donate at Saving the Sumatran Rhino. Help keep hope alive.




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Encouraging news for the smallest Rhinos

One of the most unique and endangered rhino species is the Sumatran. These hairy beasts are lesser in size than the rest of the rhinos, and in numbers. With only about 100 known individuals left, they seem to be on the fast track to extinction.

Yet, there is a glimmer of hope.

With such critically low numbers, every birth is a big deal.  When it comes to mothers, the Sumatran Ratu is a star.  Living in the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Indonesia she gave birth in 2012, and is now expecting a second baby due in May.

baby sumatran international rhino foundation

Ratu’s first calf, Andatu; photo: International Rhino Foundation

This coincides with the recent return of Harapan, formerly from the Cincinnati Zoo, to the wild. In late 2015 he made the epic journey across the globe to the SRS, with the goal of eventually doing his part in perpetuating the species.

Harapan Dec 2015 2

Harapan, happy and healthy in his Indonesian home. Photo: Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary

But perhaps what tops it all is this week’s discovery of 15 previously unknown individual Sumatrans.

In response to this news, the Indonesian government is quickly converting a former gold mine into a sanctuary for them. With hopes to safely transfer them, they will be guarded by a rhino protection unit just like the ones in place at the SRS, which have successfully staved off poaching for more than 7 years.

Rhino Protection Units are comprised of trained 4 man teams. Photo: International Rhino Foundation


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Update on Harapan

Just a few photos of Harapan in his new home at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia. He’s happy and healthy and seems to have transitioned well!

For more on the epic voyage of the amazing Sumatran who was the last of his kind in the western hemisphere, see New Hope for Sumatrans and  The Journey of Hope.

Harapan Dec 2015

Harapan Dec 2015 2

Harapan Dec 2015 3

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Happy Fathers Day Andalas

Andalas is not just any rhino dad. What makes him special is the fact he was the first Sumatran rhino born in captivity in 112 years! At 6 years of age he was moved to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in south Sumatra.


Andalas photo: Asian Rhino Project

His transition from zoo to jungle presented some challenges. He didn’t know how to wallow in mud holes, wasn’t used to browsing for his own food, or having such a variety of it. It took time for his caregivers to teach him these vital skills.

He was also initially scared of other rhinos and ran when they came near. Not quite a lady’s man, he was overly aggressive to the females. After guidance and socialization skills from the staff, he was gradually introduced to two female rhinos.

He chose Ratu. In 2012 he and Ratu became parents to Andatu, the first rhino ever born at SRS.

It is hopeful he will be able to duplicate that success with other females.

Baby Andatu in 2012

Baby Andatu in 2012. photo:International Rhino Foundation



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Harapan and the Fate of the Sumatrans

Me with Harapan

Harapan preparing for his morning routine: health check complete with a distraction of fresh fruit.

I fell in love with rhinos thanks to Emi, the sweet and gentle Sumatran rhino who lived at the Cincinnati Zoo.  Recently I had the amazing opportunity to meet Harapan, her son and one of the few remaining of his kind.

Harapan is 7 years old, the youngest of the 3 offspring birthed by Emi. Big brother Andalas is now at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Indonesia, and his sister Suci passed away in March of this year.

Harapan is an avid traveler, having lived for a brief time in zoos in Florida and California. In July of 2013 he returned to Cincinnati in hopes of breeding him with his sister Suci. With Sumatrans teetering on the brink of extinction, it was a desperate attempt to help further the species. The move proved to be too late, as  Suci passed away only 7 months later of Hemochromatosis  (iron storage disease).

Paul Reinhart

Paul Reinhart

Paul Reinhart is the team leader in the Ungulate Department in the zoo. He has worked with rhinos for over 30 years, witnessing the comings and goings of Emi and her offspring. Paul recalls when Harapan returned to the zoo in 2013. Harapan seemed to know he was home, walking out in the yard, and rolling contentedly in the mud.

Indeed, he seemed very relaxed and downright spoiled at times, ears pivoting back and forth as he listened to his familiar friend talking. If he wasn’t in on the conversation, Hary would toss his enormous head toward the bars of the enclosure, banging and impatiently squealing until he had our attention.

Hary obviously loves people, and seems to thrive on the compliments, pats and rubs the staff heap upon him.

Harapan blooddraw

Each morning Harapan has blood taken to monitor his health. Since his sister and mom both passed away from Hemachromatosis, monitoring is crucial.

Mudbaths and produce are high on Harapan’s list of day-to-day highlights. But what is in his future?

The obvious answer seems to be to send him to Sumatra, the same SRS where his brother Andalas now lives. With the species so perilously close to disappearing, it seems the only option.

dr roth

Dr. Terri Roth

Dr. Terri Roth,  zoo veterinarian, VP of conservation and science and CREW director, stated

“The only chance for Harapan to reproduce seems to be at the SRS so that is the driving reason for suggesting he go there.  However, Indonesia needs to let me know that they want him first and the LA Zoo actually partially owns him so they also have to be in favor of the idea.”

CREW  is a research facility in the zoo, dedicated to saving endangered plants and animals from extinction. They utilize research, propagation, in situ protection, education and public engagement to save targeted plants and animals. At the heart of the program lies the Cryobiobank, known scientifically as a genome resource bank. Here there are hundreds of plant and animal species stored. These frozen specimen include Sumatran samples.

Does this change the future? Will we see some sort of “Jurassic Park” scenario of bringing back species from extinction?

Dr Roth says ” I think if we lose the species it will be gone forever.  If a small viable population continues to thrive, we may someday be able to infuse new genes into the population using the samples we have stored at CREW.”

But ultimately as Roth states “The fate of the Sumatran Rhino lies in Indonesia’s hands now.”

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One Special Rhino



As if timing his arrival to perfectly coincide with 2012-13 as International Year of the Rhino, Sumatran rhino calf “Andatu” was born at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in the wee hours of 23 June. This is the first Sumatran rhino birth at a breeding centre in Indonesia, and has been heralded as a critical step towards the species’ conservation.

This year this special guy turns 2 years old!

So what do you get a star rhino for his birthday (he even has his own facebook page)?

Consider purchasing his book, One Special Rhino, written and illustrated by fifth graders at the P.S. 107 John W. Kimball Learning Center, an elementary school in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

It tells the story of his life at the Way Kambas rhino sanctuary, his species’ fight for survival and what children can do to help save rhinos.The year-long project was a collaboration between the P.S. 107 Beast Relief committee and the International Rhino Foundation.

Andatu as a baby

Andatu as a baby

All proceeds from sale of the book will go directly to the International Rhino Foundation for the care, feeding and protection of Andatu and rhinos like him.

For more on Andatu, see previous post: Happy Birthday Andatu



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Which is Your Favorite Rhino?

rhino sizes 45 species of rhinos used to exist in the world, dating back 50 million years. Today there are 5 remaining species. They are all endangered.

Indian Rhino

Indian or Greater one-horned Rhino

The largest is the Indian or Greater one-horned Rhino.  Living in India and Nepal, they are the “big guys”  in the Asian group, rivaling only the White Rhino for size; about 2 meters high and weighing in at 1800 to 2700 kg. They live near bodies of water, and are actually very good swimmers and can run up to 40mph (64 km) Both species of Asian rhinos use their incisors, not their horns, to defend themselves.

Javan Rhino

Javan Rhino

The Javan (or lesser one-horned rhino) is the “little brother” of the Asian rhinos. They are 1.4-1.7 meters high, weighing in at 900-2300kg, similar in size to the Black Rhinos of Africa. There are only approximately 37-44 left in Indonesia. They are the least vocal of the 5 species, and highly dependent on the forests for their survival.

black rhino 3

Black Rhino

Black rhinos are one of two species found in Africa, they are the slighter smaller, shyer and more aggressive than the White Rhinos. They are approximately 1.6 meters tall, the males weigh in at 1350 kg, while the females are about 900kg. They can be quick- running up to 34mph (55km) an hour. Like their White cousin, they are often seen with Oxpeckers on them; the birds remove ticks and parasites, helping keep them clean.

White Rhino

White Rhino

White Rhinos are the “big guys” on the African savanna, 1.5-1.8 meters high, they weigh in at 1800-3000 kg. They are distinct from the black rhinos, as they have a square head, which is lower to the ground. Unlike  other rhino species, they do not have a prehensile hooked lip for browsing and picking at bushes and branches,  instead they are built for grazing. They are the more docile of the two African species.

Sumatran Rhino

Sumatran Rhino (by: Johannes Pfleiderer)

Sumatrans have been on earth longer than any living mammal, but sadly there are less than 100 left. Living in parts of Borneo and Sumatra, they are the smallest of all the rhino species (1-1.5 meters high, weighing just 600-950kg). They have a unique reddish-brown coloring, with bristly hair. They are the most vocal of all rhinos, and quite agile, able to climb mountains and maneuver steep riverbanks.

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Sumatrans: The Forgotten Rhino

Sumatran rhinos are the smallest of the living rhinos, and probably the most unique in appearance. They are covered in hair and most closely resemble their extinct ancestors woolly rhinos.

sumatran range history and current

Borneo and Sumatra are home to the last Sumatrans.

They are the most vocal, and quite agile. Living in jungle conditions, they climb mountains and riverbanks surprisingly easily.

There are less than 150 Sumatrans left in the wild. In captivity there are only 9; and of them,  just two captive females have reproduced in the last 15 years. Doesn’t make for a bright outlook does it?

Sumatrans live in fragmented areas due to deforestation and an ever shrinking habitat. They also face the same peril as their African cousins-poaching.

The plight to save the remaining endangered Sumatran rhinos has grown more urgent following the death of Gelugob. She resided in Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Sabah, Northern Malaysia, and passed away of old age on January 11th.



For 19 years, experts had studied her breeding habits with hopes of her giving birth. She was unable to produce eggs and did not respond to hormone treatments.

Across the world, in Ohio the Cincinnati Zoo is making efforts to save the species  as well. Infamous for a previously successful breeding program with Emi (see previous post: Emi: the World-Famous Sumatran), they are now hoping for success again by breeding resident Sumatran Suci with her brother Harapan.

With intense efforts worldwide, the remaining Sumatrans are being studied, bred and monitored in hopes of keeping the species alive.

Ratu and Andalas son-

Andatu, born in June of 2013 at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia.

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Happy Birthday Andatu

The Sumatran Rhino is critically endangered, with only 130-190 individuals surviving. Their final stronghold exists in three Sumatran National Parks, with help from the International Rhino Foundation.

The birth of a new Sumatran Rhino is a very big deal. It provides hope, and confidence in the survival of the species. One year ago, a calf named Andatu did just that. Shortly after midnight on June 23, he was welcomed into the world at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Indonesia.

andatu and mom

The story of Andatu starts with his grandmother Emi (see previous post  Emi was the beginning of the intensive conservation efforts made at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio. In 2001, she gave birth to Andalas, the father of Andatu . This was the first birth of a Sumatran in a zoo in 112 years!

In 2007 Andalas was shipped to the SRS in Indonesia where he was introduced to three potential mates. He chose Ratu, and the rest is history. Although one rhino won’t bring back the species, it’s a start. It shows that international collaboration, science, and diligence pay off.

Video of Andatu’s mud bath at a few days old:


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The Story of Ganda: one of the first Sumatran Rhinos on record

Early in the year 1515, Alphonso Alburquerque, the governor of what was then Portuguese India, arranged for a special gift – a live rhinoceros – to be given to King Manuel I of Portugal. Animal gifts to royalty were fairly common in those times, with many people of nobility keeping exotic personal menageries. Called Ganda, the female rhinoceros had been captured in what is now the state of Assam. She was put aboard the Nossa Senorada Ajuda along with her keeper, Ocem, and the ship set sail from the port of Goa in January. It ventured westward across the Indian Ocean, rounded Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and arrived in Lisbon 120 days later.

sumatran eating

It would be safe to say that Ganda was something of a sensation in her new home, her kind not having been seen in Europe since the days of the Roman Empire. She resided in the royal menagerie at Ribeira Palace, but the King ordered that she not be kept near the elephants, as the two species were believed to be mortal enemies. However, within a matter of only a few weeks, he decided to verify this supposed fact and arranged for a battle between the beasts.

The fight was held in a courtyard and attended by the royal family and their guests. The youngest elephant in the King’s menagerie was led into the arena from its stable, and the tapestries hiding the rhinoceros were drawn open. An observer by the name of Valentin Ferdinand wrote that the rhinoceros appeared furious and immediately charged her foe, so violently that she broke free of her chain. The young elephant, whose back was initially turned to Ganda, reacted to her charge by “uttering a tremendous cry”, turning tail and bolting to safety through a thick set of iron bars.

How this affected the King is not recorded by history. However, instead of keeping his new pet rhino, he decided to re-gift Ganda to Pope Leo X. She was put aboard a ship bound for the Holy City, but this time adorned with a gilded chain, a green velvet collar, and a garland of roses and carnations. The sea voyage began in December, the ship docked briefly in Marseilles in January, and then headed for Rome.

Unfortunately, a storm encountered in the Gulf of Genoa sunk the ship and drowned all who were aboard, including Ganda. But all was not lost. Her body washed ashore, was recovered, stuffed and ultimately delivered to the Pope.

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