The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is mourning the loss of one of the world's most famous endangered Sumatran rhinos, Ipuh.
The male rhino, Ipuh, who was believed to be at least 33 years old, has lived at the Cincinnati Zoo for the past 22 years and sired three calves, Andalas (2001), Suci (2004) and Harapan (2007).
In 2001, years of breakthrough research by scientists at the Zoo's Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) resulted in the first captive birth of a Sumatran rhino since the 19th century.
Since then, Ipuh sired more offspring than any other Sumatran rhino in captivity, making him the most prolific captive male Sumatran rhino in history. Just this past year, Ipuh became a grandfather when his first-born calf, Andalas, became a father at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia.
In December 2012, the Cincinnati Zoo's Animal Care Staff first noticed Ipuh was moving stiffly and slowly during the mornings when keepers would first enter his barn. Since these symptoms are common in aging animals (and humans) it was noted but not considered too unusual.
However in late January, keepers began to notice that Ipuh was not eating all of his food overnight, which was unusual, and his ability to stand and move continued to decline despite the veterinary staff's best efforts to medicate him. Because Ipuh's condition continued to deteriorate, on Monday, Zoo staff made the difficult and humane decision to euthanize him.
"It is always devastating when a beloved animal reaches the end of its life, especially one whose amazing history makes him so special," said Dr. Terri Roth, Director of the Cincinnati Zoo's CREW. "He literally turned a failing captive breeding program for his critically endangered species into an international success. Our hope is that we can honor him by continuing to build on the legacy that Ipuh left behind, through his sons and daughters, as well as the scientific advancements that he contributed to in life."
Considered the most endangered of all rhino species and perhaps the most endangered mammal species on earth, it is estimated that at least 50 percent of the Sumatran rhino population has been lost in the last two decades.
The primary cause is conversion of rhino habitat for agriculture, even in some national parks, and poaching for its horn which some Asian cultures believe contains medicinal properties.
Today, there are only 10 Sumatran rhinos living in captivity worldwide and fewer than 200 wild rhinos, most in isolated forests on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia but a few rhinos still exist in Sabah, Malaysia.
CREW has successfully developed the technique to harvest and preserve rhino sperm, even after death.
Not only will Ipuh's calves and their offspring continue to provide hope for his species, but Ipuh himself may continue to sire calves even after his death.
"This is a sad day, not only for all of us here at the Cincinnati Zoo, but for the rhino community around the world," said Thane Maynard, Director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. "Any time an animal as critically endangered as a Sumatran rhino passes away, it is a genuine loss to the Earth's biodiversity. What Ipuh did for his species will forever be an example of what scientific achievement and charismatic animals can do when they combine forces. Ipuh lived a big life, and he will be missed by all who knew and worked with him"
Sumatran rhino longevity is unknown but Ipuh was believed to be one of the oldest on record prior to his death.
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