Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 12253405
This project proposal will build on the tremendous momentum recently experienced within the Sumatran rhino ex situ conservation program and will also address new challenges the program is facing. For over 15 years, the breeding program for this species struggled, and no calves were produced. In 2001, success was finally achieved at the Cincinnati Zoo with the birth of the first Sumatran rhino calf produced in captivity in 112 years (4). The achievement was quickly repeated twice more in 2004 (3) and 2007. These calves were produced only after significant research by CREW scientists who eventually unraveled the mysteries of Sumatran rhino reproduction and developed an intensive, science-based breeding program that works (4,5). In recent years, critical pieces of the program developed at the Cincinnati Zoo have been transferred to the staff at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Sumatra, and just this month they succeeded in producing the first captive bred Sumatran rhino calf in SE Asia. Whereas, this milestone is a huge step forward for the global Sumatran rhino ex situ program, there is still much to do. There are four potentially fertile female rhinos (one in Sabah, Malaysia, two in Sumatra and one in Cincinnati) that have not yet become pregnant. In fact, several of these rhinos have not yet even mated with a male rhino while in captivity. In addition, the recent agreement among all countries to exchange gametes but not rhinos (Attachment I) has made it imperative that sperm banking and artificial insemination be developed for this species to enable gene exchange between countries and to avoid serious inbreeding. For four years, grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and a previous Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund grant have supported the efforts of CREW staff in assisting the staff at the SRS, consulting with staff in Sabah, and in preliminary work to develop Sumatran rhino AI protocols in Cincinnati. However, the previous Mohamed bin Zayed grant ended at the end of 2011 and funding from IMLS ends December 1, 2012. Given the significant, tangible progress being made with this first term pregnancy in Sumatra, new rhinos captured in Sabah, and successful steps in developing AI for this species already accomplished in Cincinnati, it is imperative that funding is secured to sustain the restored vigor of the program. The general goal of this proposal is to support the global collaboration and cooperation among the ex situ conservation breeding facilities for Sumatran rhinos to ensure: 1) every possible effort is made to breed female rhinos with males; 2) sperm is collected and cryopreserved from male rhinos; 3) sperm is imported/exported as necessary to ensure genetic diversity is maximized within the tiny population; 4) artificial insemination is developed and implemented to help produce the most genetically valuable offspring and/or to overcome physical or behavioral impediments that limit natural mating; and 5) staff at all breeding centers are empowered with the knowledge and technical expertise required to ensure the ex situ conservation program for this species succeeds. Ultimately, this program may produce the only source of rhinos for bolstering small, fragmented wild populations.
Project 12253405 location - Indonesia, Asia