Cincinnati Zoo to mate endangered rhino siblings

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CINCINNATI -- With the survival of a species on the line, Cincinnati Zoo scientists are hoping to mate their lone female Sumatran rhino with her little brother.

The desperation breeding effort with the rhino siblings follows a recent crisis summit in Singapore, where conservationists concluded that as few as 100 of the two-horned, hairy rhinos might remain in their native Southeast Asia.

Rhinos overall are dwindling globally, and the Sumatran species, descended from ice age woolly rhinos, is one of the most critically endangered.

The Cincinnati Zoo has been a pioneer, producing the first three rhinos born in captivity in modern times. This month, its conservationists brought back the youngest, 6-year-old Harapan, from the Los Angeles Zoo and will try soon to have him mate with the zoo's female, his biological sister, 8-year-old Suci.

"We have to produce as many as we can as quickly as we can," said Terri Roth, who heads the zoo's Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife.

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Critics of captive breeding programs say they often do more harm than good and can create animals less likely to survive in the wild.

Roth said the siblings' parents were genetically diverse, which is a positive for the plan.

The parents of the three rhinos born in Cincinnati have died, but their eldest offspring, 11-year-old Andalas, was moved to a sanctuary in Indonesia where he last year became a father after mating with a wild-born rhino there. -- AP

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