Emma, 5, slim build with a gentle demeanor, is looking for love overseas. Her hobbies include spending time with friends and studying Japanese. She seeks a fellow rhinoceros for companionship and mating.
It has been a busy and exciting time at the Leofoo Village Theme Park (六福村) in Hsinchu County’s Guansi Township (關西), where zookeepers have been preparing to send one of their southern white rhinos to Japan. Part of an attempt to widen the gene pool of Asia’s captive-bred white rhinos, it is the first time that Taiwan is to send a rhino overseas to breed.
The safari park scoured their 23-strong herd to find a suitable candidate and settled on Emma, who ticked all the right boxes.
Photo: Sam Yeh, AFP
“Emma was chosen because of her mild personality ... and her smaller size also makes it easier to ship overseas,” said Sean Wu, the park’s chief veterinarian and animal manager. “She seldom gets into fights with other rhinos or snatch others’ food.”
Once visa and paperwork are sorted out, Emma is to travel to Tobu Zoo in Saitama, where a 10-year-old fellow rhino, Moran, has been lined up to be her first suitor.
To help her adapt to her new home, zookeepers have started using Japanese instructions for commands such as “come” and “no.”
“We have added Japanese commands in our daily animal training so that slowly when she arrives in Japan she can more quickly adjust to the new language,” Wu said.
The rhino has also been trained to get used to “outdoor ambient sounds” such as airplane engines and trucks to prepare her for noise during the upcoming journey.
Her trip, originally set for this month, has been postponed to late next month at the earliest due to Japan’s border restrictions imposed over the COVID-19 pandemic, the park said.
A veterinarian and a zookeeper are to fly to Japan two weeks ahead of her departure to undergo quarantine. They would stay in Japan for at least a week to ensure that Emma adjusts to the new environment.
The southern white rhino — found in the wild across southern Africa — numbers less than 19,000, statistics by animal conservation group Save the Rhino showed.
They were nearly wiped out last century, but recovered thanks to conservation efforts.
Their northern cousins were not so lucky. Only two remain, both female, rendering the species functionally extinct.
Other rhino species, such as the Javan rhino and Sumatran rhino, have less than 100 herds left.
Zoo breeding programs played a crucial role in repopulating southern white rhino herds.
The park in 1979 imported eight rhinos from Africa and now has the most successful breeding program in Asia, with 23 animals in its herd.
Rhino poaching is fueled by a market for their horns in Asia — especially in China and Vietnam.
Rhino horns are made up of keratin, the same material as fingernails and hair, but scammers erroneously market them as an aphrodisiac or cancer cure.
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