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more. This time I chose a whole carrot, which he polished off the way a human adolescent might dispatch a pretzel stick. Harapan, a Sumatran rhinoceros that lives at the Cincinnati Zoo, is 6 years old and not quite fully grown. He’s about eight feet long, with ruddy skin and a coat of coarse, reddish fur. Over the summer he’d put on about 100 pounds, and at the time of my visit, in the fall, he weighed seven-eighths of a ton. After going through the entire contents of the pail, he was evidently still hungry. Reinhart, the zoo’s head rhino keeper, cut open a box of ficus that had been specially flown in from San Diego and held out a branch the size of a small bush. Harapan grabbed it with his lip and chomped away noisily. Harapan’s name means “hope” in Indonesian; depending on how you look at things, this is either entirely apposite or painfully ironic. Harapan was living at the Los Angeles Zoo until this past July, when the decision was made to send him to Cincinnati to be with North America’s only other Sumatran rhino, a 9-year-old named Suci. Suci is female, so the “hope” is that when Harapan reaches sexual maturity, something that should happen in the next few months, the pair will produce a calf. The painful part is that Suci is Harapan’s sister. The decision to try to breed Harapan and Suci is a sign of just how desperate the situation of Sumatran rhinos has become. Last spring, wildlife experts met in Singapore for what was starkly titled the Sumatran Rhino Crisis Summit. At the summit, it was announced that the number of Sumatran rhinos in the wild had dropped to a perilously low level: only about 100 animals remain. At least that many specialists had traveled to Singapore for the meeting, so most likely there were more people discussing how to save Sumatran rhinos the doctor is in than there were rhinos left to save. Terri Roth checks her data before Meanwhile, what’s true of the Sumatran rhino is, performing an to one degree or another, true of all rhino species. ultrasound on The Javan rhino, which once ranged across most 9-year-old Suci.

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of Southeast Asia, is even rarer than the Sumatran, with probably fewer than 50 individuals left, all in a single Javanese reserve. The Indian rhino, the largest of the five living rhino species, which appears to be wearing a wrinkled coat, as in one of Kipling’s “Just So” stories, is down to about 3,000 individuals. A century ago in Africa, the population of black rhinos approached a million; it has since been reduced to around 5,000 animals. (Two years ago, the Western black rhino, a subspecies that lived in and around Cameroon, was officially declared extinct.) The white rhino, also from Africa, is the only species not currently classified as threatened. It was hunted nearly to oblivion in the nineteenth century, then made an astonishing comeback in the twentieth, owing to a combination of careful protection and breeding on game farms. Now, in the twentyfirst, the white rhino has come under renewed pressure from poachers, who can sell rhino has an horns on the black market for understated determinamore than $20,000 a pound. The horn is particularly poption. She threw herself ular these days in Southeast into the study of rhino Asia, where it is sometimes powdered and used as a party physiology, collecting “drug.” (In fact, rhino horn is blood samples, testing made of keratin, like your fingernails.) feces and urine. Following the Sumatran Rhino Crisis Summit, officials from the Cincinnati and Los Angeles zoos decided that, given the alarmingly small number of animals left, producing a calf was so important it outweighed concerns about inbreeding. Harapan was coaxed into an extra-large crate and loaded by forklift onto a truck. A

Roth

OnEarth Spring 2014  

Hog Wild, by Ted Genoways

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