Spiral Notebook
Siblings to Help Save Sumatran Rhino
by Mary Kay Carson
July 27, 2013
Siblings to Help Save Sumatran Rhino

Rhinos worldwide are facing a crisis as the price of rhino horn skyrockets. Demand for the traditional medicines made from black market rhino horns has never been higher in China and Vietnam. As the value of rhino horn increases, so do the efforts of poachers killing rhinos for horns. While all rhinos are threatened, Sumatran rhinos are the species most in danger of extinction. When our book Emi and the Rhino Scientist came out in 2007 there were about 300 of these small hairy rhinos living in the forests of the southeast Asian islands of Sumatra and Borneo. By the time we updated the book for its 2010 paperback version, the species’ wild population numbers were down to 200. Today, only half as many remain. How many will exist in another three years? If a hundred more are lost, no Sumatrans will live in the wild. None. “What does it say about humanity,” asks rhino scientist Terri Roth, “if we cannot find a way to share the earth with such an ancient, peaceful, non-threatening species like the Sumatran rhino.”

In an effort to keep the species going, Terri is going to try breeding two of Emi’s offspring. Harapan has just returned to the Cincinnati Zoo. The six-year old male had been living at the L.A. Zoo. Terri and the other scientists at the Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) hope to breed him with his older sister, Suci, who never left the Cincinnati Zoo. “No one wants to breed siblings, it is something we strive to avoid,” explains Terri. But with no other captive Sumatran rhinos available, inbreeding is a lesser worry than extinction. “And I am not willing to sit idle and watch the last of a species go extinct.”

Want to help save Sumatran rhinos? You can tweet “I’m a fan of Harapan – #RhinoCrisis,” join in the Cincinnati Zoo’s Letter Campaign for the Sumatran Rhino, or download the Sustainable Shopper App to help you choose rhino-friendly products. Learn more and keep up to date on rhinos at Rhino Signature Project.

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