user: pass:

Foose, T.J.; Strien, N.J. van, 1998. Conservation programmes for Sumatran and Javan rhinos in Indonesia and Malaysia. Pachyderm 26: 100-115, figs. 1-11, tables 1-3

Location: World
Subject: Management - Programs
Species: Sumatran Rhino

Original text on this topic:
The second major component of the conservation programme for Sumatran and Javan rhinos are managed breeding centres in native habitat. Currently, these centres are being developed for only Sumatran rhinos, but if successful they may be extended to Javan rhinos.
The managed breeding centres have two major components, biological and conservation tourism.
Biological component:
The breeding centres for Sumatran rhinos are attempting to propagate this species under managed conditions as a back-up to the in situ protection efforts. Since in situ protection has proven to be difficult, a supporting mechanism through managed breeding could be critical. On this premise, and in response to the dire status of this species, an ex situ captive propagation programme was initiated in 1984 as an integral component of the conservation strategy for this species under the auspices of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of IUCN. The recommendation for ex situ programmes derived from the extreme difficulties of trying to protect this species in the wild and because an estimated 25% of the rhinos were located in areas where they could never be protected or be part of a viable population.
Successful propagation of the other 3 species of rhinos (black, white, and especially Indian) that have been maintained in captivity in modem times provided encouragement that this ex situ programme would also be successful. Indeed, the second rhino known to be born in captivity was a Sumatran at the Calcutta Zoo in 1889. Moreover, it was decided that only so-called 'doomed' rhinos would be rescued for captivity. 'Doomed' rhinos are defined as animals located outside protected areas in situations which were not be protectable with available resources, or areas which did not contain enough rhinos to be viable demographically or genetically (IUCN/SSC, 1984).
Three separate captive programmes were initiated in the major and geographically distinct regions where appreciable populations of Sumatran rhino still survive: Indonesia, Peninsula Malaysia, and Sabah (on the island of Borneo). The Indonesian programme was the most international of the programmes with rescued rhinos being placed in captive facilities in Indonesia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Unfortunately, traditional captive methods have not worked for the Sumatran rhino. The Sumatran rhino is a much more formidable challenge than anticipated. Since 1984, 40 rhino have been collected from the wild. However, mortality has been high: 23 of the 40 have died (60 %). Today only 17 (five males and 12 females) survive in ten captive facilities. Moreover, to date no reproduction has occurred although one calf has been born to a female captured pregnant very early in her gestation period (Table 2).
A number of reasons have been proposed for the problems with this captive programme:
1. Many of the mortalities seem consistent with nutritional difficulties. The facilities with the lowest rates of mortality (Sungai Dusun and Malacca Zoo) are adjacent to natural habitat forest and use exclusively native browse for the rhino diets. This browse may provide a better balance of nutrients needed by the rhinos than the diets including browse provided by the captive facilities more distant from native habitat.
2. Mortalities may also be related to the size and configuration of captive enclosures. Sumatran rhinos have large home ranges (10-15 km? for females and 30 km? or more for males) in the wild and individual adult rhino probably seldom encounter each other except when females are in estrus. Most of the captive facilities are relatively small (0.4 hectares). Moreover, males and females are kept in adjacent or even in the same enclosures which do not provide adequate complexity for flight and evasion during the often violent interactions between the sexes. At least one of the mortalities in captivity appears the direct result of such conflict.
3. The small size and configuration of enclosures may also inhibit breeding. Indeed, because the rhinos are aggressive if they come into contact with one another, many managers do not place the sexes together. It is also the case that bad luck concerning the sequence of sexes captured (Foose, 1999) and the subsequent distribution of rhinos among facilities due to political agreements rather than biological objectives, has prevented adult males and females from being in the same facility for enough time or in sufficient numbers to try different breeding combinations.
4. The reproductive biology of the species causes it to be one of the most difficult that captive managers have ever tried to breed. For one thing, males are very, sometimes fatally, aggressive towards females except when females are in estrous. Consequently, there is reluctance to place males with females until the female is in estrous. However, it is difficult to know when the female is receptive without placing her with the male. This presents a real dilemma. Moreover, recently it has been revealed that females are induced ovulators, that is they will not produce eggs that can be fertilised by male sperm until or unless copulation occurs. Furthermore, if the female becomes pregnant there is speculation that it is important to separate her immediately from the male or she may lose her pregnancy, as occurred three known times at the Cincinnati Zoo and perhaps another half dozen times at other facilities during the captive breeding programme.
5. A final cause of captive breeding problems is stress due to exposure, both to human activities and to environmental factors, especially intense sunlight (notably its ultraviolet component), for these normally deep forest species. Cataracts presumably caused by exposure to sunlight have been a recurrent problem with captive rhinos.
The conclusion from consideration of the programme performance and suspected problems has been a recommendation that the surviving rhinos in captivity be consolidated in the most spacious enclosures and natural conditions possible consistent with continuation of the intensive protection and management believed necessary because of the precarious situation in totally free-ranging situations in the wild. By providing much larger enclosures and more natural conditions in a managed breeding centre in natural habitat the hope is that propagation can succeed. These areas have been designated as 'sanctuaries', a slightly different use of the term than has occurred in Africa, because rhinos in the Sumatran rhino sanctuaries are initially not as free-ranging as their African counterparts. Moreover, food is supplemented and mating controlled. However, as protection improves and the rhino population grows, the objective is to evolve more towards the African model.
Conservation tourism component:
Ultimately, a more important part of the sanctuary programme is the development of a conservation tourism component to generate funds for operation of the breeding centres as well as other rhino conservation projects, especially the RPU programme. A preliminary business plan has been formulated, and projects significant revenue earning for the sanctuaries and rhino protection units in 3-5 years.
The SRS at Way Kambas is being used as the focal point for the conservation tourism programme. While to date efforts at the SRS have concentrated in initiation of the biological programme, there has also been steady progress towards the tourism objective.
To achieve these dual objectives, the SRS in Way Kambas is undergoing a joint venture with the Directorate General of Nature Protection and Conservation (PKA) in the Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops of Indonesia, the Indonesian Centre for Reproduction of Endangered Wildlife at Taman Safari Indonesia (TSI), Yayasan Mitra Rhino (YMR - The Rhino Foundation of Indonesia) and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF). Both a SRS Foundation and a SRS Company have been formed. The SRS Foundation, administered by a Board with both Indonesian and non-Indonesian members, manages the biological component of the SRS as well as linking with the Rhino Protection Unit (RPU) Programme through the PHPA/ AsRSG/ IRF/ YMR MOU. The SRS Company is developing and will manage the eco-tourism component through a Board representing the major partners in this programme. All 'profits' from the SRS Company will be transferred to the SRS Foundation for rhino conservation, first operating expenses of the sanctuary but then for support of the RPUs. Figure 10 presents a diagram of the structure of and relationship between the SRS Company and Foundation in support of rhino conservation. Similar arrangements are under development for Sungai Dusun.
Conceptual plans for the tourist facilities have been completed. The start-up costs for the eco-tourism programme are estimated at approximately US$1 million and are not yet secured. However, efforts to recruit funds to initiate construction of the tourism facilities have already commenced. Also in progress are discussions with major international tour operators about possible partnerships in developing the tourism facilities and programmes. Indeed a programme of day visits by tour groups has already provided some income for operating expenses at the SRS. However, it must also be acknowledged that the recent political instability and economic crisis in Indonesia will retard development of the programmes to some degree.
As mentioned above, the prospects provided by the SRS have already induced Peninsula Malaysia to provide joint responsibility for management of Sungai Dusun to the IRF/ AsRSG so that there can be integrated and interactive management of this Centre and the SRS in terms of both rhino propagation and conservation tourism. Ultimately, the tourism programme in Way Kambas may also attempt to co-ordinate with similar programmes for the Javan rhino in Ujung Kulon to provide a package that will virtually ensure visitors of observing both species in their natural habitat. This opportunity has indeed been rare. Since World War II, there has been less than 60 minutes of total observation time of Sumatran rhinos in the wild by the substantial number of managers and researchers who have worked on this species. Conservation tourism is much less developed in Asia than in Africa because, in general, it is more difficult to observe wildlife easily. The programmes associated with the Sumatran rhino breeding centres will be an important and innovative step toward developing more conservation tourism in Asia.

[ Home ][ Literature ][ Rhino Images ][ Rhino Forums ][ Rhino Species ][ Links ][ About V2.0]