U.S. Zoo Plans to Send Endangered Sumatran Rhino to Indonesia to Mate

Harapan, the Cincinnati Zoo's Sumatran rhino, is returning to the wild. The relocation will maximize his breeding potential. Cincinnati Zoo

In a news conference yesterday, the Cincinnati Zoo officially announced plans to relocate an endangered Sumatran rhinoceros to Indonesia, according to an NPR report.

Terri Roth, the director of the zoo’s Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife, told Newsweek that the news conference would let zoo guests and members know about the plans to relocate the rhino, named Harapan, so that they can visit him one last time. Zoo officials have obtained import permits from the Indonesian government, but await approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Harapan is the only remaining member of his species currently living outside of Southeast Asia. The species is critically endangered, with fewer than 100 individuals estimated in the wild. As Newsweek reported last week, scientists now believe that the species is extinct in Malaysia, and only survives in Indonesia. Its habitat is threatened by development, and poachers hunt the animals for their horns.

Harapan’s handlers will relocate him to a protected sanctuary on Sumatra, the western Indonesian island to which the species is native. There he will be monitored and safeguarded by anti-poaching units. Researchers will keep an eye on his health and diet, and attend to any medical needs that might arise. The move, the zoo hopes, will maximize his breeding potential by putting him in contact with other wild rhinos.

Harapan, born in 2007, is the last of a group of rhinos bred in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo. The zoo lost one rhino to old age, and two others died of a blood disorder that caused iron overload.

While they await government export approval, zoo staff are training Harapan to acclimate to his transportation crate.