Ohio zoo tries to mate rhino siblings - WFLA News Channel 8

Ohio zoo tries to mate rhino siblings

Posted: Updated:
CINCINNATI, OH (WFLA) -

With the survival of a species on the line, Cincinnati Zoo scientists are hoping to mate their lone female Sumatran rhino with her little brother.

The desperation breeding effort with the rhino siblings follows a recent crisis summit in Singapore where conservationists concluded as few as 100 of the two-horned, hairy rhinos might remain in their native southeast Asia. The species numbers have fallen by up to 90 percent since the mid-1980s as development takes away habitat space and poachers hunt them for their prized horns 

Rhinos overall are dwindling globally, and the Sumatran species descended from Ice Age woolly rhinos is one of the most critically endangered 

The Cincinnati Zoo has been a pioneer in captive breeding of the rhino species, producing the first three born in captivity in modern times. Its conservationists this month brought back the youngest, 6-year-old Harapan, from the Los Angeles Zoo and soon will try to have him mate with the zoo's female - his biological sister - 8-year-old Suci.

"We absolutely need more calves for the population as a whole; we have to produce as many as we can as quickly as we can," said Terri Roth, who heads the zoo's Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife. "The population is in sharp decline and there's a lot of urgency around getting her pregnant. 

Critics of captive breeding programs say they often do more harm than good and can create animals less likely to survive in the wild. Inbreeding increases the possibility of bad genetic combinations for offspring.

"We don't like to do it, and long term, we really don't like to do it," Roth said, adding that the siblings' parents were genetically diverse, which is a positive for the plan. "When your species is almost gone, you just need animals and that matters more than genes right now - these are two of the youngest, healthiest animals in the population."

The parents of the three rhinos born in Cincinnati have died, but their eldest offspring, 11-year-old Andalas, was moved to a sanctuary in Indonesia where he last year became a father after mating with a wild-born rhino there 

The first coordinated effort at captive breeding began in the 1980s, and about half the initial 40 breeding rhinos died without a successful pregnancy. Roth, who began working on the rhino project in 1996, said it took years just to understand their eating habits and needs and decades more to understand their mating patterns. The animals tend not to be interested in companionship, let alone romance. 

"They're definitely difficult to breed because they're so solitary," Roth said. "You can't just house them together. So the only time you can get a successful breeding is if you just put them together when the female is going to be receptive."

Mating between such close rhino relatives might happen in the wild, Roth said, but it's difficult to know because the animals are so rare. If the offspring of such a mating then bred with an unrelated rhino, the genetic diversity would resume in the next generation, she said 

Harapan, who weighs about 1,650 pounds, will be kept separate from his sister, who is a little smaller. On a recent morning at the zoo here, he slathered himself in a mud hole, then ambled over to settle down in a pool of water 

When the time is right to reintroduce the rhinos, the zoo team won't dim the lights or play mood music. Instead, they will use a system of gates to bring the pair together. If they begin to fight or show other behavior indicating things aren't going well, the team will try to separate them, using bananas for distraction. 

Before then, Roth and the other scientists will have measured Harapan's testosterone levels while using ultrasound and other monitoring to know when Suci is ovulating.

"You should use the science to guide you," Roth said. "We have really relied on the science."

If the breeding is successful, the zoo will be celebrating a fourth Sumatran rhino birth about 16 months later. If not, other efforts will continue.

Indonesian conservationists have been trying to mate Andalas, the oldest brother, with two other females there after last year's success. His semen has also been banked, but there have been no reported successful artificial inseminations yet.

At the Singapore summit, Indonesian and Malaysian authorities pledged to work together more closely on species survival efforts. Conservationists say special rhino protection patrols have thwarted poachers who kill rhinos to take horns that can be worth tens of thousands of dollars on the black market. The horns are sought for medicinal and other uses - by legend, rhino horns are said to have aphrodisiac powers.

While the Sumatran rhino isn't a particularly popular or even recognizable animal to the public at large, Roth said, the species contributes to the global need for healthy forests with its role in the ecosystem clearing small saplings and brush, and helping spread seeds and make trails smaller animals use. Also, the rhinos don't threaten humans nor damage their crops.

"There's no human-rhino conflict," Roth said. "Are we going to put enough value in wildlife to share the earth with this ancient, peaceful, noninvasive species? If we let the Sumatran rhino die, what are we going to save?"

 

___

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Back-to-School Tax-free Holiday is here

    Back-to-School Tax-free Holiday is here

    Friday, August 1 2014 11:37 AM EDT2014-08-01 15:37:09 GMT
    It's almost time to head back to school and that means it's time to shop.
    It's almost time to head back to school and that means it's time to shop.
  • Tampa Bay woman feels ripped off, pays $61 for coins worth $1.50

    Tampa Bay woman feels ripped off, pays $61 for coins worth $1.50

    Thursday, July 31 2014 6:10 PM EDT2014-07-31 22:10:55 GMT
    Vickie McInnis responded to a newspaper ad promising a chance to buy old, rarely-seen coins.Vickie McInnis responded to a newspaper ad promising a chance to buy old, rarely-seen coins.
    Vickie McInnis responded to a newspaper ad promising a chance to buy old, rarely-seen coins that have been sitting in a bank vault for years.With shipping, she paid $61.43. But, here's what she received: a bag of about 100 pennies, worth at most: $1.50.
    Vickie McInnis responded to a newspaper ad promising a chance to buy old, rarely-seen coins that have been sitting in a bank vault for years.With shipping, she paid $61.43. But, here's what she received: a bag of about 100 pennies, worth at most: $1.50.
  • Tampa Bay Water begins filling Bill Young reservoir

    Tampa Bay Water begins filling Bill Young reservoir

    Thursday, July 31 2014 5:45 PM EDT2014-07-31 21:45:52 GMT
    Tampa Bay Water is celebrating a rebirth of sort for its beleaguered Bill Young reservoir. TBW is now diverting water from the Alafia river and filling the reservoir after a massive gutting and renovation project that cost in excess of $124 million dollars.
    Tampa Bay Water is celebrating a rebirth of sort for its beleaguered Bill Young reservoir. TBW is now diverting water from the Alafia river and filling the reservoir after a massive gutting and renovation project that cost in excess of $124 million dollars.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Body found near Polk search area for missing girl

    Body found near Polk search area for missing girl

    Friday, August 1 2014 11:58 AM EDT2014-08-01 15:58:00 GMT
    A decomposed body has been found near the search area for a missing 16-year-old Orange County girl.According to the Osceola County Sheriff's Office, an unidentified, decomposed body was found by a citizen at about 9:30 a.m. on Friday on State Road 532 between ChampionsGate and the Reunion Resort.
    A decomposed body has been found near the search area for a missing 16-year-old Orange County girl.According to the Osceola County Sheriff's Office, an unidentified, decomposed body was found by a citizen at about 9:30 a.m. on Friday on State Road 532 between ChampionsGate and the Reunion Resort.
  • Back to School: Tips for affordable 'Teacher's wish lists'

    Back to School: Tips for affordable 'Teacher's wish lists'

    Friday, August 1 2014 11:47 AM EDT2014-08-01 15:47:24 GMT
    File Photo: Wikimedia CommonsFile Photo: Wikimedia Commons
    If you received one of those last minute "Teacher's Wish List" for back to school supplies, there are ways to fill it without breaking the bank.Mommy blogger and Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine contributor Laura Byrne recommends shopping with other parents at a warehouse store...
    If you received one of those last minute "Teacher's Wish List" for back to school supplies, there are ways to fill it without breaking the bank.Mommy blogger and Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine contributor Laura Byrne recommends shopping with other parents at a warehouse store...
  • Baycare Sports Medicine Conference is Saturday

    Baycare Sports Medicine Conference is Saturday

    Friday, August 1 2014 11:36 AM EDT2014-08-01 15:36:08 GMT
    The annual BayCare Sports Medicine Conference is Saturday, Aug. 9 starting at 8 a.m.This year, the topic is about keeping young athletes on the playing field and in the game.The keynote speaker is David Epstein, Sports Illustrated senior writer and author of the acclaimed book, The Sports Gene.
    The annual BayCare Sports Medicine Conference is Saturday, Aug. 9 starting at 8 a.m.This year, the topic is about keeping young athletes on the playing field and in the game.The keynote speaker is David Epstein, Sports Illustrated senior writer and author of the acclaimed book, The Sports Gene.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Gator comes to front door in Coral Springs home

    Gator comes to front door in Coral Springs home

    Friday, August 1 2014 7:17 AM EDT2014-08-01 11:17:15 GMT
    A couple in Coral Springs thought a raccoon was making noise at their front door but when they came out they found a large alligator there, WPLG reported. The alligator was about 9 feet long, according to the WPLG story.
    A couple in Coral Springs thought a raccoon was making noise at their front door but when they came out they found a large alligator there, WPLG reported. The alligator was about 9 feet long, according to the WPLG story.
  • Screams, panic caught on video as shark charges at swimmers near beach

    Screams, panic caught on video as shark charges at swimmers near beach

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 5:48 PM EDT2014-07-30 21:48:04 GMT
    Facebook image from Dan FlynnFacebook image from Dan Flynn
    A Florida beach cleared out – with the exception of a woman and lifeguard who tried to save her – when a shark was spotted heading straight toward swimmers on Tuesday afternoon. The panic of the 10-foot shark and people screaming from the pier was caught on tape.
    A Florida beach cleared out – with the exception of a woman and lifeguard who tried to save her – when a shark was spotted heading straight toward swimmers on Tuesday afternoon. The panic of the 10-foot shark and people screaming from the pier was caught on tape.
  • Giraffe dies after smashing head on low highway bridge

    Giraffe dies after smashing head on low highway bridge

    Thursday, July 31 2014 3:37 PM EDT2014-07-31 19:37:45 GMT
    A giraffe has been killed after smashing its head on a bridge while being transported dangerously on a highway in South Africa, wildlife officials said Thursday.
    A giraffe has been killed after smashing its head on a bridge while being transported dangerously on a highway in South Africa, wildlife officials said Thursday.
Powered by WorldNow

200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

Telephone: 813.228.8888
Fax: 813.225.2770
Email: news@wfla.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.