US-Born Rhino Arrives on Mission to Breed

WAY KAMBAS NATIONAL PARK, Sumatra ~ A US-born Sumatran rhino arrived this week at a national park where it is hoped he will breed with two young females and help ensure the survival of the species.

Andalas, the first Sumatran rhino born in captivity in more than a century, arrived at the Way Kambas National Park, on the island of Sumatra, after a long journey from Los Angeles.

The flight from the United States was followed by an overnight ride from Jakarta by ferry and then a lorry ride in a convoy with officials, conservationists and his vet.

On arrival, a crane lifted him and his wooden travel crate off the lorry, which had a banner reading “Welcome Andalas” tied to its sides.

The hairy five-year-old rhino happily backed out of the crate when coaxed and was installed in an open-air, six-meter by six-meter quarantine enclosure.

Andalas walked around inspecting his new home, where he will remain in quarantine for two months. He was equally curious about journalists watching his every move, but decided to take a rest – after he was given a shower.

His cage is in a field where three other rhinos live – two young females and one old male – but he is separated from them by a barrier.

Life in US zoos has not prepared Andalas for the Sumatran forest and the parasite-carrying ticks that infest them.

While native rhinos develop immunity to the blood parasites from an early age, Andalas had to be inoculated before his journey.

“He is doing fine. He’s only a little bit tired after this long trip. Over all, he looks very good,” vet Robin Radcliffe, who accompanied Andalas on the journey from Los Angeles, told the AFP newswire.

“He will be in quarantine for the first 60 days to enable him to adapt to his new environment. He will then be released into a rainforest of 10 hectares,” added Radcliffe, who leads the Rhino Conservation Medicine Programme at Cornell University, affiliated with the International Rhino Foundation.

Small and hairy, the two-horned forest-dwelling Sumatran rhinoceros is one of the most endangered mammals in the world, with only about 300 remaining in the wild.

Born on September 13, 2001, in Cincinnati Zoo, and later transferred to Los Angeles, Andalas has returned to his ancestral homeland as part of an international breeding program to try to save the species.

Two young female rhinos, Rosa and Ratu, were awaiting his arrival at the rhino sanctuary, but it will be some time before they can hope for any amorous advances.

It will be at least a year before he is ready for breeding, said Monica Stoops, who arrived last month ahead of Andalas to prepare for his arrival at the sanctuary.

First, it was important to ensure he got accustomed to his new surroundings after a life in US city zoos, said Susie Ellis, program director of the International Rhino Foundation.

“The first step is to make sure that Andalas is comfortable, he is happy and he is getting used to the new environment. We are not going to push him. He will tell us himself when he is ready,” Ellis said.

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