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  SOS Rhino : In the News : News From The Field : Sepilok Report: February and March 2005
Sepilok Report:
February and March 2005
February 2005 in Sepilok

Steve Romo a Sumatran rhino keeper from Los Angeles Zoo came to visit us in Sepilok. Steve can be called “the father” of the first Sumatran rhino born in captivity. He had been head rhino keeper at the Cincinnati Zoo when the successful breeding was achieved. He took care of Andalas, the first Sumatran rhino born in captivity and he moved with him to Los Angeles Zoo when he grew older. Steve was also involved in the breeding program in Sungai Dusun, West Malaysia for two years.

Newborn Andalas in Cincinnati Zoo. Picture kindly provided by Steve Romo.

Steve with Andalas in Los Angelas Zoo. Picture kindly provided by Steve Romo.

Steve Romo stayed in Sepilok for two weeks. He advised us in the construction of a new breeding area that became necessary since Gelugob lost her eyesight. He also advised us in handling of the rhinos. Mating Sumatran rhinos can become quite tricky especially if a pair is placed together when the female is not sexually receptive. This can result in very vicious fighting; especially in captive situations were neither animal could run away. During his visit Steve had the chance to learn from Dr. Rosa, how to collect blood from the tail of the rhino and he had a chance to watch Tanjung´s mating attempts, on a tree in his enclosure. Steve was very impressed with the condition and sexual activities of Tanjung, our male Sumatran rhino. He rates him to be in excellent breeding condition.

Rhinos mating in Sungai Dusun. (Picture kindly provided by Steve Romo).

New breeding chute in Sepilok

The German ambassador, on the left, and his wife, second on the right, watching the male Sumatran rhino in Sepilok

The German ambassador, Mr. Herbert D. Jess and his wife came to visit Sepilok. They met Dr. Petra Kretzschmar our German scientist who briefed them about the breeding project in Sepilok and our program in Tabin. Mr and Mrs Jess also had a chance to get a close look at Tanjung while he was kept in our “VIP enclosure”. The German ambassador also invited Dr Petra and the German community in Sabah for a dinner. It was learned that there are about 13 Germans in Sabah at the moment.

The german ambassador promoting our SOS rhino t-shirt.

He is standing next to Dr. Rosa and Dr. Petra on the right and on the left, his wife, Mr. Wong from the Forestry Department, and Kristina from the Orang Utan Appeal

Every, a local girl starts to work in Sepilok. Her job is to sell SOS Rhino t-shirt and to give a short presentation about the work of SOS Rhino to the tourist before showing the SOS Rhino video. She speaks Malay and English and is therefore ideally suited for this task. Dr. Petra trained her the basic skills necessary for the presentation and told her the most important facts about Sumatran rhinos.

March 2005 in Sepilok

Tanjung and Gelugob interacting through the fence

March was a month of high sexual activity in the rhino enclosure. Tanjung, the male Sumatran rhino had several erections during this month. He mounted the tree in his outside enclosure on five days of 27 days of observation. In comparison, only one day of erection and masturbation was recorded in February. During these days of high sexual activity several erections were observed during the day. We believe that the sexual activity of Tanjung is an indicator of Gelugob´s sexual receptivity, based on a comparison of Gelugob´s hormone profile and Tanjungs sexual activity. We therefore tried to mate the rhinos on these occasions:

On the 18th of March we allowed Tanjung to smell Gelugob´s backside while she was restrained in the new “chute”. He was interested and smelled and licked her backside but he did not get an erection. We separated these animals after a short while as the interest in each other was not very strong.

Tanjung smelling Gelugob´s back before opening the gate

On the 22nd of March we allowed Tanjung to smell Gelugobs backside while she was kept in the “chute”. He was interested and smelled and licked her backside. During this time he got an erection and we opened the gate between them. The animals were than only separated by two wooden bars that were approx 1 m in height. He put his head on her backside and got very excited. Gelugob made a lot of noise and tried to get out of the enclosure. We therefore closed the gate between the animals and gave them a rest. We opened the gate two more times but Gelugob was too restless and was obviously too afraid of him so we did not proceed any further in the mating trial.

We tried to mate the rhinos again the next day, the 23rd of March. During this time Tanjung was standing on a ramp and had better access to Gelguob. He however did not have an erection and did not show much interest in Gelugob. We therefore stopped the mating trial.

On the 29th of March we allowed Tanjung to smell Gelugobs backside while she was in the chute. He showed no interest in her so we did not open the gate.

Dr. Rosa, the Danish embassador, Mr. Børge Petersen and his wife, Silvia and other officers watching the Orang Utans in Sepilok

In March we had another ambassador visiting Sepilok, Mr. Børge Petersen and his wife from the Danish embassy in Kuala Lumpur. They went to see the Orang Utan feeding and came to see our rhinos. Both got a complimentary t-shirt from SOS Rhino and were briefed about the rhino project.

Dr. Petra handing over the SOS rhino t-shirt to Mr. Børge Petersen and his wife

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