Rare Cincinnati-born rhino sires calf in Indonesia

A rare Sumatran rhinoceros born at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has sired a healthy male calf, hopefully contributing to the survival of the critically endangered species.

Harapan was born at the Avondale facility in 2007. In 2015, the zoo sent him – the third Sumatran rhino calf born in Cincinnati – to Indonesia so that he would have the opportunity to help repopulate his species rather than simply serving as an ambassador role. At the time, Harapan was the last rhino of his kind in the Western Hemisphere. 

On Saturday, a healthy male calf, fathered by Harapan, was born at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park. The calf doesn’t yet have a name.

This was also the first calf for the mother, Delilah, showing that both parents are compatible and able to reproduce. 

The not-yet-named rhino calf
(Photo courtesy of the Indonesia Ministry of Environment and Forestry)

“It was a long, arduous journey for all involved, and not without risks. Although it took several years before Harapan achieved what he was sent to do, this birth of his first calf at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary confirms that we made the right decision,” said Dr. Terri Roth, director of the Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife, or CREW. Her research led to the births of Harapan and his two siblings.

“Our efforts and sacrifice were worth it, and the ultimate goal has been achieved,” Roth continued. “We are so grateful for the wonderful partnership we have shared with our Indonesian colleagues for over two decades and so very proud of their success.”

Even with this new calf, there are only 10 Sumatran rhinos in the managed breeding program in Indonesia. There are fewer than 80 around the world.

Between 2001 and 2012, the Cincinnati Zoo was the only place in the world successfully breeding Sumatran rhinos.

The zoo’s CREW team works closely with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, the Indonesian Rhino Foundation, the IUCN Asian Rhino Specialist Group and the International Rhino Foundation, to protect the species in the wild and propagate them in zoos. It also partners with Indonesian and Malaysian colleagues to transfer knowledge and breeding techniques.

The success of the natural breeding program at the sanctuary increases the odds for the long-term survival of the species, Roth said. Another rhino calf was born earlier this year.

The gestation period for a Sumatran rhino is about 16 months.

Sumatran rhino Delilah’s baby
(Courtesy of the Indonesia Ministry of Environment and Forestry)

“You never know if a first-time mom will know what to do, but Delilah brought that calf into the world and started nursing it with no fuss or fanfare. It’s an incredible event that gives hope to the future of this critically endangered species,” said Nina Fascione, the International Rhino Foundation’s executive director.

Harapan’s older brother, Andalas, was born in Cincinnati in 2001. He was the first rhino of his kind born in a zoo in more than 112 years. His sister, Suci, was born in 2004, three years before Harapan’s arrival.

Andalas moved to the Sumatran sanctuary in 2007 and has sired three calves since then. Two of them are now parents.

Roth, who has been at the Cincinnati Zoo since 1996, indicated that two years ago there were only two proven breeders at SRS. Today, there are six. She stressed the importance of finding new genes since all offspring bred to-date are related to the breeding pair from the Cincinnati Zoo.

“We are moving in the right direction,” she added. “The progress and momentum behind the managed breeding program is so encouraging.”

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