Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Sumatran Rhino begins US-Asia trip to ancestral home

by DAN SEWELL | Associated Press – Fri, Oct 30, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) — The last Sumatran rhino in the Western Hemisphere began a journey Friday from Ohio to its ancestral southeast Asian homeland on a mission to help preserve the critically endangered species.

The 8-year-old male, Harapan, will make an air, land and sea trip of more than 10,000 miles. Including stops, the journey's expected to take some 50 hours before the rhino reaches an Indonesian sanctuary. A veteran Cincinnati Zoo animal keeper who was at the Sumatran rhino sanctuary when Harapan's older brother became a father there in 2012 is accompanying the rhino, along with a zoo veterinarian.

Conservationists hope Harapan can mate with one or more of the three females in the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park.

Zoo officials said the 1,800-pound rhino underwent medical checks and was trained to walk into and voluntarily remain in a specially made travel crate. Keeper Paul Reinhart and veterinarian Jenny Nollman will travel with Harapan, who will have six cases of ficus along with bananas, apples and pears for his in-flight meals.

Numbers of the two-horned "hairy rhinos," descendants of Ice Age wooly rhinos, have fallen by some 90 percent since the mid-1980s as development of their forest habitat and poachers seeking their horns took their toll. Including three Sumatran rhinos in a sanctuary in Malaysia, only nine are in captivity globally.

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