A rare species of rhinoceros lost another member late last month, as one of the last remaining Sumatran Rhinos passed away at the Cincinnati Zoo. Suci was a 10-year-old Sumatran rhino who lost a long battle with hemochromatosis, which is responsible for an abundance of iron in the body. Suci’s mother died of the same illness several years ago, and Suci’s death brings the total of Sumatran rhinos in captivity down to nine.

Sumatran rhinos are a breed that has been steadily vanishing for years due to several issues including logging and poaching, as its horns are used in traditional Asian medicine. The Cincinnati Zoo has worked with various Indonesian organizations for two and a half decades to try and help the species back to more stable numbers, but the odds are stacked against these creatures, as their horns are valued higher than gold and cocaine in the Asian black market. It is estimated that less than 100 Sumatran rhinos may exist in the wild, and the species is widely considered the most endangered large mammal in the world, having experienced 50% decline per decade in the 20th century.

In addition to poaching for their horns, the Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests called home by the rhinos are frequently ravaged for their rare hardwoods. While the rhinos are relatively resilient to changing habitats and harsh environmental conditions, the ever-increasing problem of logging in their natural habitat is thought to put an even greater strain on the survival of the species.

While Suci’s death had far-reaching implications for her species and the environment, it also profoundly affected the conservationists who have worked to save her species. Both Terri Roth, one of the Cincinnati Zoo’s conservationists, and Joel Sartore, Suci’s longtime photographer for National Geographic, expressed their grief and disappointment with her passing.

Attempting to put Suci’s death into perspective, Ross made the following statement: “If we don’t act quickly and boldly, the loss of this magnificent animal will be among the greatest tragedies of our time.”

Source: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140331-rare-endangered-sumatran-rhinoceros-animals-cincinnati-zoo/

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