Sumatran Rhino Captivity

Passing by the sign for the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary and knowing I was in a national park with a population of Sumatran rhinos was enough to make me giddy.  Being allowed the opportunity to see a Sumatran rhino in person was priceless.  As much as I prefer to see rhinos in the wild to seeing them in captivity, I appreciate the efforts being put into Sumatran rhino conservation and rehabilitation and being able to see those efforts firsthand and meet the conservationists involved in the project was an incredible experience.

The life span of Sumatran rhinos in the wild can be 30-45 years and generally ranges from 30-35 years in captivity. A large conservation program transported 40 individuals from the wild to worldwide zoos and reserves throughout the 1980ís-1990ís. Lack of births and an outbreak of illness decimated the captive population until just a handful of individuals remained by the late 1990ís. 

The last of the surviving rhinos were sent to Cincinatti Zoo where, in 1997, an intensive reproductive research project was launched by the Linder Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW). After several failed pregnancies, the Sumatran rhino Emi gave birth to Andalas, a healthy male, in 2001. In 2007, Andalas was transported to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary. Four years later, in 2012, Andalas fathered Andatu, a male calf born to Ratu, a wild-born female.

Captive breeding programs such as this can be controversial. Some believe that fewer resources should be spent on research in captivity and instead spent on protection of the species and their ecosystem in the wild. Fatalities are often numerous at the start of these programs and some species fail to recover from these losses. Others believe that captive breeding programs and research play a significant role in educating the public, raising awareness, and raising funds for in situ research.




Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.