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Feeling HORNY? RHINOCEROS INCEST project underway at Cincinnati Zoo

'I will not sit idle and watch', promises boffin

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Desperate boffins battling to save a rare and endangered species of rhino are attempting to breed the animals in captivity by mating a brother and sister.

"Harapan", 6, arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo earlier in the month to meet up with his sister, "Suci", 9, with a view to reproduction. The Cincinnati Zoo is apparently a world centre of expertise in breeding the scarce Sumatran rhinoceros, of which there are now fewer than a hundred left in the world.

“No one wants to breed siblings, it is something we strive to avoid, but when a species drops below 100 individuals, producing more offspring as quickly as possible trumps concerns about genetic diversity,” said Dr Terri Roth, a top rhino breeding expert at the Zoo. “We are down to the last male and female Sumatran rhino on the continent, and I am not willing to sit idle and watch the last of a species go extinct.”

Roth and her colleagues engaged in their desperate rhino-breeding push after a world conference of Sumatran rhino experts last year, at which the attendees realised there were more of them present than there were Sumatran rhinos left in the world.

The team at the Cincinnati Zoo is world record-holder for Sumatran rhinos bred in captivity, being home not only to Suci and Harapan (who has been living elsewhere for the last few years) but also their brother "Andalan", 12. Andalan has since moved to a national park sanctuary in Indonesia, where he has already become a dad. This is the only other Sumatran rhino ever bred in captivity, with experts from the Cincinnati and Los Angeles Zoos providing "technology ... that proved key to the successful breeding effort".

According to the Cincinnati team:

The birth of Andalas’ first calf was a monumental global achievement resulting from collaboration among the Cincinnati Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, IRF and the Indonesian Rhino Foundation, wherein all parties acted in the best interest of the species.

Roth and the other US-based perissodactyl boffins say that international rhino shipments can't be a one-way street, however. They'd like it if the Indonesian government would lend them some rhinos in return.

“It is critical that in-country programs succeed, which is why we support them financially, donate our services and send them rhinos produced at our zoos when it is essential to their success. But in return, the US captive breeding program needs new genetic diversity to ensure it continues to flourish, before it’s too late," pleads Roth. ®

Bootnote

We double checked and it is Cincinnati, not Philadelphia.

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