The Rhinoceroses – The Battle for its Survival Continues
The protection of many animals is nearly impossible today without zoos. One example here is the rhinoceros, whose population is diminishing massively worldwide. For this reason, the Academy together with the IZW Leibniz Institut für Zoo- und Wildtierforschung Berlin (Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research Berlin) has been committed to a special species protection and conservation breeding project at Salzburg Zoo since 2013 and will now also support the Frankfurt Zoological Society in its fight against local poaching in the Serengeti.
In the 1990s, poachers in the Serengeti, as in many other regions of Africa, almost exterminated rhinos. Officially, the trade with the horn of rhinoceroses has been forbidden for about four decades. However, because it is said to have healing and aphrodisiac properties, especially in China and Vietnam, rhino horns are still being paid horrendous prices on the black market. With fatal consequences: This species is still on the verge of extinction and is very difficult to protect in the wild. This is why special breeding programmes are being run in zoos and animal gardens to preserve this species. In the Serengeti, the Frankfurt Zoological Society is committed to the protection and monitoring of the last animals of this species. It trains rangers for a special rhino protection unit, provides equipment and vehicles, provides logistical support and works closely with local authorities, institutions and animal protection organisations. The academy will help in the future.
And for good reason: since the Academy was founded, Prof. Dr. Henning Wiesner and Dr. Julia Gräfin Maltzan have been very keen to help endangered wild animals. In 2013, the Academy therefore initiated a special species protection and conservation project for rhinos at Salzburg Zoo. At that time, Henning Wiesner was asked by Salzburg Zoo Director Sabine Grebner to provide scientific, zoological and veterinary advice because of his decades of practical experience as a zoo veterinarian and head of the Munich Hellabrunn Zoo. This also involved the lack of young rhinoceroses. Bulle Athos showed no interest whatsoever in his conspecifics.
Wiesner advised artificial insemination and cooperation with the internationally renowned Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wild Animal Research (IZW) in Berlin.
In order to prepare the animals for this, Wiesner changed feeding and husbandry and prescribed special phytotherapy to stimulate the male and female gonads. With success: In this way the Salzburg Zoo got two kittens, which have developed wonderfully and are now supposed to provide for their offspring in another zoo.
In December 2017, the specialists travelled from Berlin to Salzburg again to continue the success of the past. Quite a difficult undertaking: Although both rhinoceros cows, Yeti and Tamu, could be inseminated, it turned out in 2018 that they were unfortunately not pregnant. The Academy will now work to continue and expand such conservation breeding programs. ■