Emi, the world’s only Sumatran rhino to give birth in captivity, died on Saturday at the Cincinnati zoo. She successfully gave birth to three offspring, one of which has been released back into the wild in Indonesia.
“Naturally it’s always devastating when an animal reaches the end of its life, but certainly one as beloved as she is — it’s a big loss,” Thaner Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo, told the Associated Press.
Sumatran rhinos are one of the world’s most endangered large mammals. It is estimated that less than 200 live in the wild in three different populations: one in Sabah in Borneo, another in mainland Malaysia, and the largest group scattered about in western Sumatra, Indonesia.
In 2001 Emi was the first Sumatran rhino to give birth in captivity since 1889. After five failed pregnancies, Emi gave birth to a healthy male after vets used a treatment of special hormones. The birth came after a long strong of failures: 40 Sumatran rhinos were taking from the wild in the early 1980s in hopes that reproduction in captivity to save the species. Today only nine Sumatran rhinos remain in captivity.
Emi was 21 years old at her death. Her eggs were removed in the hope that one day they may be used for in-vitro fertilization.
Sumatran rhinos are threatened by poaching for their horns, which fetch high prices on the Chinese black market. Also, palm oil plantations and logging has decimated the remaining habitats of Sumatran rhinos.
The last surviving member of the genus Dicerorhinus, Sumatran rhinos are the world’s smallest. The species are also the most closely-related living relatives to the wooly rhinoceros, which roamed Europe and Russia until 10,000 years ago. Sumatran rhinos are the only species to be nearly covered by a coat of reddish-brown hair.
Video of Emi’s third and final baby soon after birth.
(03/17/2006) World Wildlife Fund today released the results of a field survey from the island of Borneo which found that poaching has significantly reduced Borneo’s population of Sumatran rhinos, but a small group continues to survive in the “Heart of Borneo,” a region covered with vast tracts of rain forest.