Zoo Plans to Breed Sibling Rhinos to Save Species

In a desperate attempt to save the endangered Sumatran rhino, scientists at the Cincinnati Zoo have brought Harapan, a male, back from California to breed with the only other member of his species on the continent: Suci, who’s his sister.

Harapan, 6, was born at the Cincinnati Zoo and had been living at the Los Angeles Zoo. Suci is 9 years old. 

Although experts usually try to avoid inbreeding, with just 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the world, they are making an exception.

“When a species drops below 100 individuals, producing more offspring as quickly as possible trumps concerns about genetic diversity,” said Dr. Terri Roth, director of the Cincinnati Zoo’s Lindner Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW), in a statement. “I am not willing to sit idle and watch the last of a species go extinct.”

The wild Sumatran rhino population has dropped by more than half in just the last 10 years, due in part to illegal poaching and deforestation.

“The captive breeding program in the U.S. has been the most significant contributor to the survival of the Sumatran rhino in recent years and in particular the progress that the Cincinnati Zoo has made in determining the reproductive strategy of this species,” says Jeff Holland, mammal curator at the Los Angeles Zoo.

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