In August, the Cincinnati Zoo announced plans to send its last Sumatran rhino home to Indonesia in the hope that he would find a mate and add to his species’ critically endangered population. Now his supporters are celebrating his safe arrival following a 10,000 mile journey.
In September, on World Rhino Day, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warned that with fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild they’re likely to go extinct if drastic action isn’t taken.
According to the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Asian Rhino Specialist Group, the Sumatran rhino is now only found in a few sites in Sumatra, and only a handful of individuals are believed to exist in Kalimantan, Borneo.
Over the past few decades poaching and habitat loss have caused their disappearance from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, India, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, and they were most recently declared extinct in Malaysia.
Now hope lies on the shoulders of Harapan, aka Harry, whose travels to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia’s Way Kambas National Park ends the zoo’s breeding program, but also brings more potential for increasing their numbers.
Harry, who was born at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2007, is one of three born in captivity through the zoo’s breeding program, along with his brother Andalas, who is also now in Sumatra, and his sister Suci, who died last year.
“The departure of Harapan, the last Sumatran rhino outside of South Asia, is a pivotal moment in wildlife conservation history. He was born at the Cincinnati Zoo eight years ago and is now on his way to the far side of the world to pursue his only chance to breed and contribute to the survival of his species,” said Thane Maynard, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Zoo.
According to the zoo, Harry arrived safe and sound and will spend his first two weeks there in quarantine, but then he’ll have access to the sanctuary and it’s hoped he will soon find one of the three females at the sanctuary to mate with.
The ongoing losses of large species like elephants and rhinos isn’t just a tragic loss for these animals, both as individuals and as a species, but also impacts biodiversity and brings environmental problems that will in turn impact us all.
“It is hoped Harapan’s relocation will further accelerate conservation breeding of the species in captivity,” said Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, Chair of the IUCN SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group. “But the long-term future of the species will ultimately be decided by the actions of the Indonesian Government and civil society. We need effective collaboration between government agencies and conservation institutions, allocation of significant funds by the Indonesian Government and international donors, as well as strengthened support from the public.”
You can help by signing and sharing the petition urging Indonesia’s government to do whatever it takes to protect the last Sumatran rhinos and ensure they don’t go extinct.