Sumatran Rhino 'Suci' Dies at Zoo


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A rare female Sumatran rhinoceros called Suci died at the Cincinnati Zoo Sunday, putting a big damper on the breeding program that had been implemented to help save the critically endangered species. Suci was one of ten Sumatran rhinos in captivity worldwide, and the only female in Cincinnati.

The rhino had been showing symptoms indicative of the same disease that killed her mother, though zoo officials won't be sure until necropsy results come in, which might take months.

Sumatran rhinos are very critically endangered, with only six populations existing in the wild – four in Sumatra, one in Borneo and one in the Malay Peninsula. They’re difficult to count, because they’re a solitary species and are scattered across a wide range, but their numbers are estimated to be less than 275. The decline of the Sumatran rhinoceros is due primarily to poaching for their horns, which go for up to $30,000 a kilo on the black market. The horns are greatly valued in Chinese traditional medicine.

Here's a clip featuring Suci:

The zoo had attempted to inbreed Suci with a sibling, younger brother Harapan, who is now the only Sumatran rhino in North America, after a summit in Singapore deemed that as few as 100 Sumatran rhinoceroses comprise the Indonesian and Malaysian populations. Andalas, the other male born at the zoo, was sent to Sumatra in 2007 to jump start a breeding program there, and has produced a male calf with a wild-born mother.

Here's some footage of Harapan:

Zoo staff had been waiting on Harapan to reach sexual maturity, but a few months ago Suci developed hemochromatosis, also known as iron storage disease. The female rhino was initially responding to therapy, and regaining weight, though her condition began to deteriorate rapidly on Sunday.

Terri Roth, director of the Lindner Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife said in a statement Monday, "Suci was a symbol of hope for her entire species, one that is quickly losing ground in the wild, and her absence will leave a hole in our hearts." The Cincinnati Zoo has yet to form a new plan to reestablish the breeding program, but remains committed to saving the species.

Roth added, "If we don't act quickly and boldly, the loss of this magnificent animal will be among the great tragedies of our time."

Image via Wikimedia Commons