Rare Sumatran rhino finds new life at Cincinnati Museum

Cincinnati Museum Center and Cincinnati Zoo join in efforts to research and educate about endangered species

CINCINNATI – A rare Sumatran rhinoceros named Ipuh has found a new home at Cincinnati Museum Center. A Cincinnati resident for nearly 22 years, Ipuh was among the oldest Sumatran rhinos living in captivity and a beloved part of the collection at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. He will continue to educate and delight visitors at Cincinnati Museum Center as they learn more about this unique and imperiled species and the work being done here in Cincinnati to save the species.

Sumatran rhinocerosIpuh 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. Ipuh was a bright spot in a program that was met with significant challenges over the years. 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 at the age of 33 in February 2013. After his passing, Cincinnati Zoo administration wanted Ipuh to remain in Cincinnati, preferably as part of the zoology collection at Cincinnati Museum Center.
“Our success in overcoming the challenges of breeding Sumatran rhinos in captivity is a significant part of the Cincinnati Zoo’s legacy in research and wildlife conservation,” says Terri Roth, PhD, Cincinnati Zoo Vice President of Conservation and Science and Director of CREW. “There is no finer way to draw attention to the species and to honor the rhino that made success possible, than to share him with our entire city at Cincinnati Museum Center.”
Museum Center 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.
“In life Ipuh served as an ambassador for his species and for conservation in general for nearly a generation,” says Francie S. Hiltz, Cincinnati Museum Center Board of Trustees Chair and member of the Cincinnati Zoo Board of Directors. “The Cincinnati Zoo continues to work to help save the Sumatran rhinoceros species and here at Museum Center we hope to give Ipuh new life as he continues to educate the public about conservation and where he can be studied by scientists for generations to come.”
Ipuh’s remains were preserved for display with help from the veterinary team at the Cincinnati Zoo, taxidermist David Noem and Cincinnati Museum Center 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 Cincinnati Museum Center.
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, Cincinnati 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.
“Given this species’ precarious position in the wild and Ipuh’s pivotal role in decades-long conservation efforts by the Cincinnati Zoo, Ipuh represents a critically important individual specimen in the history of rhinoceros conservation and, in particular, the history of conservation and science in Cincinnati,” says Herman Mays, PhD, professor of biology at Marshall University and research associate and former curator of zoology at Cincinnati Museum Center.
Ipuh will make his Cincinnati Museum Center debut on November 1 in the Grand Rotunda and will be moved to the Duke Energy Children’s Museum lobby on December 4.

For more information, visit www.cincymuseum.org