Desperate blind date planned for two rare Sumatran rhinos


LOS ANGELES -- Never has a first date been more important.

The Los Angeles Zoo is making arrangements to fly Emmy, a rare Sumatran rhino, to Cincinnati to court with Bagus, the only male of his type in the nation.

With only three of the endangered rhinos left in U.S. zoos, officials see this as the last chance to breed an animal considered one of the most endangered on earth.

"Emmy is the last hope," said Mike Dee, mammal curator at the Los Angeles Zoo.

The transfer is expected to be approved next week by the city's Recreation and Parks board, and the move would take place soon after.

While no Sumatran rhino has been bred in captivity in this century, experts are hopeful that the get-together will prove a success.

Sumatran rhinos, small, long-haired animals, are native to the rain forests of Indonesia but are being wiped out by poachers, said Mr. Dee. There are nine Sumatran rhinos in captivity, and experts believe there are only 1,000 in the world, he said.

Emmy will be put in a yard next to Bagus, so they can adjust to each other. "We'll just let them sort the rest out themselves," Mr. Dee said.

If Emmy should become pregnant, it is likely that she or her calf will be able to return to Los Angeles as part of the zoo's arrangement with Cincinnati, Mr. Dee said.

While Sumatran rhinos are typically friendly, Emmy has an exceptional personality. Marilyn Fackler-Gray, her keeper, said Emmy comes when people she knows call her, greeting them with excited squeals.

"Everyone loves her; even the gardeners come in the morning to see her," she said.

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