Harapan had the distinct and very sad honor of being the very last Sumatran rhino in the Western Hemisphere for almost 2 years. The species of Rhinoceros is actually endangered as a whole, and estimates of the population of Sumatran rhinoceros the world over show that only about 100 of these animals are still living. This particular rhino was sent to Indonesia recently, with the hopes that the male could find a mate at a sanctuary in the country.
Harapan the rhinoceros lived with many hopes placed on the small rhino’s shoulders. The particular species is actually the smallest of any of the rhinos in existence, and the only Asian rhino that possesses 2 horns. The 8-year-old Sumatran rhino was born in captivity to a zoo in Cincinnati. He also had a sister, Suci, and she used to live with him in the Cincinnati Zoo, but unfortunately, she died last year from an illness. The zoo actually had a program in place where they were trying to breed rhinos in captivity. It yielded 3 rhinos, but Harapan’s out-of-country trip marks the official end to that. The young rhino now bears the hopes of many conservationists who are hoping that he can find a mate in Indonesia and help to preserve his critically endangered species. Yahoo News reported that, coincidentally, Harapan’s name means hope, so he just may be up for carrying all those expectations.
The trip to Indonesia is actually a return home for Harapan, as it is his native country. In fact, his older brother has found a mate and become a father in 2012 at the rhino sanctuary that Harapan was sent to. A veteran Cincinnati Zoo animal keeper from the sanctuary, who was present to aid Harapan’s brother in 2012, was also on board every step of the way with Harapan. Before the journey began, the 1,800-pound (816-kilogram) rhino was trained to go into, and stay in, his crate voluntarily, and underwent medical checks and traveled with a zoo veterinarian. He began the 10,000-mile (16,000-kilometer) trip on Friday and traveled by air, land, and sea to arrive at the sanctuary. On Sunday, he arrived at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport aboard a Cathay Pacific jet. The rhino then made the trip to the seaport of Merak by truck, and then his final leg to Sumatra island was by ferry. The rhino will be quarantined for about 2 weeks before he is moved into the sanctuary.
Harapan’s older brother, Andalas, was moved to the Rhino Sanctuary in 2007, and has had great success in helping to end the endangered status of his species. The rhino has fathered 1 healthy calf, a male by the name of Andatu, who was the first Sumatran rhino born to an Asian breeding facility in over 140 years. Andalas’ mate is a 12-year-old named Ratu, who was born in the wild. She is now pregnant with her and Andalas’ second calf, and due to deliver in May. The rhino sanctuary is located at Way Kambas National Park, and 3 female rhinos call it home. Conservationists have hope that Harapan will be able to mate with 1 or more of the female rhinos and gift the world with more Sumatran rhinos. Times Live reports that Harapan arrived at dawn and Bambang Dahono Adji, the senior biodiversity conservation official in Indonesia’s forestry ministry, reported that he’s “adapting well” after his 36-hour flight, and joked about his diet.
“He is healthy and has a great appetite. We noticed this morning he was lapping up all the leaves. Being Sumatran, perhaps he preferred local fare, like rice instead of cheese. Like his brother, we hope he will be able to breed and boost the Sumatran rhino population here.”
The Sumatran rhino’s natural habitat in Indonesia is as endangered as the species of rhino is. Their forests are under constant attacks from illegal loggers, palm oil plantation companies, and even farmers. Rampant poaching of the rhinos for their horns, which are used in traditional Chinese medicines, has greatly contributed to the Sumatran rhino being an endangered species, and they have been decimated in Indonesia over the past 50 years. Hopefully Harapan finds a mate and helps to repopulate his species.
[Photo Courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo / Twitter]