Taronga is a founding member of the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) and continues to support many of its activities today in both Asia and Africa.
In addition to financial and administrative support, our veterinarians, pathologists and now reproductive biologists have actively engaged in collaborations with the staff of the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary at Way Kambas. Staff from IRF, Way Kambas, the Asian Rhino Project and Taronga work together to ensure health of the rhinos and the viability of the population overall.
In June 2012, Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s Senior Veterinarian, Dr Benn Bryant, was stationed at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Way Kambas National Park, Indonesia. Benn had been waiting two weeks to assist with the birth of the first Sumatran rhino calf to be born at the Sanctuary. On the night of 23 June, after two days of contractions, wild-caught mother, Ratu, gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Andatu. The international team of experts carefully monitored the situation with the help of low-light cameras and were ready to intervene at the first sign of anything going wrong. In fact there were no problems and there was no need to intervene and risk interfering with the very important maternal bonding process.
After the birth, the team stayed to make sure the new calf suckled from mum. “Rhinos are born without antibodies of their own, so they have to absorb them from their mother’s milk within the first 12 to 24 hours,” Benn explains. “These antibodies are vital to the little one’s immune system.” Andatu combines his mother’s (Ratu) and father’s (Andalas) names and also means Gift from God. The rhino baby’s infectious joy in life makes the work of SRS staff a pleasure and brings new hope for the species as a whole by highlighting the importance of rhino protection.
Through the tireless efforts of the International Rhino Foundation and local NGO, YABI (Indonesian Rhino Foundation) Taronga supports rhino protection in the wilds of Indonesia. Together these teams work with government agencies to ensure both Sumatran and Javan rhino species are protected. In over six years not a single Sumatran rhino has been poached from Way Kambas or Bukit Berisan Selatan National Parks and no Javan rhino has been poached in 11 years.
This wonderful outcome is due to the tireless efforts of the Rhino Protection Units (RPUs) at work on the ground. These dedicated and highly trained teams constantly patrol the parks to stop poaching and snaring of rhinos and other species, prevent illegal logging and gather intelligence to ensure successful prosecution of wildlife criminals. The RPUs also work with local communities to provide incentives for communities to promote the National Parks and gain support for the protection of rhinos and other species.
The IRF focuses its Black Rhino work in Zimbabwe where intensive efforts have led to the recovery of the species to more than 400 animals. This is now the fourth largest population in Africa. The population requires continued support as it increasingly faces serious poaching threats. Taronga supports monitoring and anti-poaching patrols that remove snares, provide veterinary treatment and rescue at-risk rhinos, moving them to safer areas.