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Cincinnati Zoo hopes it can save these special rhinos

Posted at 6:37 PM, Dec 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-01 22:42:16-05

CINCINNATI -- Experts estimate there are fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinoceroses left on the planet -- perhaps as few as 30. If that's the case, 13 percent of all remaining members of this critically endangered specials trace their origins to a breeding program at the Cincinnati Zoo.

"It's really a crisis we're facing," Terri Roth, a rhino reproduction expert, said after a recent trip to Sumatra. "The reports of the wild population, they're depressing, and there's no two ways about that."

But the Cincinnati Zoo has contributed four new members to the declining population in the rhinos' native habitat. Andalas and Harapan, two male rhinos born at the zoo, were reintroduced to the wild later in life and are now part of an effort to bolster their species' numbers. 

RELATED: From Cincinnati to Sumatra: Taking a rhino across the world on a cargo plane

Andalas has already produced two offspring, and Roth is hopeful Harapan will sire his own calves soon. The two male rhinos are products of the world's first Sumatran rhino breeding program, which began at the Cincinnati Zoo with their mother, Emi.

According to the zoo's website, Emi's sweet, playful personality made her the ideal research subject to help scientists learn more about her declining species. Roth remains optimistic that Emi's two calves will do even more -- they'll reverse that decline, helping save the unique species to which they belong.

"I'm hoping for more exciting news, soon," she said. "Maybe about some new pregnancies in the next year."

The Sumatran rhino is the smallest living rhino species and is distinguishable from others by both its size and its coarse coat of reddish-brown hair. Until it came into contact with humans, the species had no natural predators.