Learn how we're helping an endangered species.
Continuing our commitment to understanding the natural world, we've been working hard behind the scenes to make an impact in the lives of the few remaining Sumatran rhinoceroses around the world. Allow us to introduce Ipuh!
Ipuh was one of the few remaining Sumatran rhinos in the world and the oldest living in captivity. He arrived in Cincinnati in 1991 as part of a collaborative, international captive breeding program between the United States and Indonesia. Scientists at the Cincinnati Zoo's Carl H. Lindner Jr. Family Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) spearheaded the breeding effort, becoming international leaders in rhinoceros captive breeding and conservation.
In addition to being an ambassador for his species, Ipuh's time in the CREW captive breeding program proved invaluable in broadening our knowledge of rhinoceros reproductive biology and captive care. He sired three offspring, more than any other captive Sumatran rhino male in the world. Genetic material was also collected from Ipuh and remains in a state of cryogenic preservation in the CREW CryoBioBank so that it may be used for research and to produce additional calves in the future.
Unfortunately, Ipuh developed thyroid cancer and passed away in February 2013 at age 33. After his passing, Cincinnati Zoo administration wanted Ipuh to remain in Cincinnati, preferably as part of the zoology collection at Cincinnati Museum Center. CMC not only wanted to preserve biological material from Ipuh for scientific study and analysis, but also to continue to share his unique story and the worldwide conservation efforts by these two local institutions.
Ipuh's remains were preserved for display with help from the veterinary team at the Cincinnati Zoo, taxidermist David Noem and CMC staff taxidermist David Might. In efforts to preserve as much of the anatomy as possible, a full skeleton was also prepared by a team of volunteers at CMC.
The Ipuh Genome Project
Tissue samples collected by veterinary staff at the Cincinnati Zoo were deposited in the Cincinnati Museum Center Genomic Resources Collection for sequencing and analysis. In collaboration with the Cincinnati Zoo, Marshall University and Jeffrey Whitsett, MD, and Alexander Lange, PhD, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Museum Center has conducted preliminary work towards sequencing Ipuh's genome, or its entire DNA.
This project is the initial steps towards the first fully decoded genome for the Sumatran rhinoceros and the latest in genome sequencing by Cincinnati Museum Center. A full genome sequence for the Sumatran rhinoceros will provide a wealth of information about the biology, conservation and evolutionary history of this unique and imperiled species.
Sumatran rhinoceros populations in the wild have plummeted and only 100 are currently believed to exist, primarily on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. Due to significant forest fragmentation, it is likely numbers will continue to decline, possibly to levels that are no longer sustainable. Loss of habitat to logging and palm oil plantations in addition to historical poaching to supply a market for rhinoceros horn in traditional medicine in China are the major contributors to the decline of the Sumatran rhinoceros.
For these reasons, says Herman Mays, PhD, professor of biology at Marshall University and research associate and former curator of zoology at Cincinati Museum Center, Ipuh represents a critically important individual specimen in the history of rhinoceros conservation and in the history of conservation and science in Cincinnati.