To see rhinos in Indonesia, one must go to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS), situated in Way Kambas National Park. The national park is located just over 100 kilometers from the provincial capital of Bandar Lampung and is one of the oldest reserves in Indonesia. Way Kambas covers approximately 1,300 square kilometers of lowland coastal tropical forest and was established by the Dutch as a game reserve in 1937. It was proposed for national park status in 1978, but wasn’t officially approved until 1997.
Today, Way Kambas is home to an estimated 25-33 wild Sumatran rhinos, but finding one of them is nearly impossible. However, five rhinos reside at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, a 100-hectare natural forest facility. Three of the rhinos – Bina, Rosa and Ratu – are females rescued from southern Sumatran forests. The breeding male, Andalas, was born at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2001 and sent to Indonesia several years later as part of an international breeding program. In 2011, Andalas mated with Ratu, who gave birth to a male calf, Andatu, in June of last year. Andalas was the first Sumatran rhino born in captivity anywhere in the world in more than a century. Andatu is the first rhino ever born in captivity in Indonesia. Our visit comes just about a week before his first birthday.
One member of our tour, Lynn Blattman, is part of the Cincinnati Zoo team that helped bring Andalas into the world. Nearly 12 years later, their reunion is touching to witness. “It was like a homecoming, like seeing a long lost friend,” Lynn confesses. “He looks so healthy. His skin is so soft. I think the mud he wallows in here helps keep him in very good condition.”
We spent a morning visiting the five rhinos and each of their keepers was given a special t-shirt as a small token of our appreciation. Gil Myers, one of the top Bowling for Rhinos fundraisers last year, has visited many zoos and has had a number of up-close-and-personal visits with rhinos behind the scenes, but considers this one the most memorable. He noted how different the Sumatran rhino’s muzzle is from that of other rhino species. He was also struck by the brightness of their eyes.
SRS veterinarian Dedi Candra accompanied our group on its morning tour, during which he also conducted ultrasound exams on Bina and Rosa. Based on the results, which can help determine their level of receptivity, one or both may be released with Andalas in the “Honeymoon Paddock” in the days ahead. A little further down the road, Andalas will be given the opportunity to mate again with Ratu, but not until Andatu is weaned and separated from mom – a day that may not be very far away.