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America's Last Sumatran Rhino Is Relocating to Find a Mate

Harapan, America’s most eligible Sumatran rhino bachelor, is relocating to Indonesia in search of a mate. As the last of his species to survive in the U.S., his love life has been of great interest to conservationists. A few years ago, the Cincinnati Zoo where Harapan was born and raised announced they would be making an effort to breed him with his sister Suci. This was the zoo’s final attempt to prolong their 25-year-old Sumatran rhino breeding program, which had been slowly dying along with the species' dwindling population. But in March 2014, Suci succumbed to Iron Storage Disease without producing any offspring. Harapan, one of just a hundred or so Sumatran rhinos alive today, suddenly became the last of his kind in the western hemisphere. 

At one point in history, the Sumatran rhino population was widespread throughout southeastern Asia. By the early 1980s they had diminished to just a few hundred animals scattered across Malaysia and a few Indonesian islands. A handful of rhinos were brought into captivity as a safeguard against extinction, but sadly, several perished from injury and disease. 

Those who did survive in captivity presented a whole new set of challenges when in came to breeding. It turns out Sumatran rhinos are maddeningly complicated when it comes to sex, which may be contributing to their dire situation in the wild. If a female isn’t getting pregnant on a regular basis, this could lead to issues such as uterine cysts, which can cause infertility. And to further add to this vicious cycle, females will only ovulate if they sense a male is nearby.

It was only after the team at the Cincinnati Zoo made these discoveries that they were able to successfully breed three rhino calves—one of which was Harapan, which means “hope” in Indonesian.

Harapan’s other sibling, Andalas, has since been sent to a breeding facility in Indonesia where he’s successfully fathered one calf. In light of the recent discovery that Sumatran rhinos are now extinct in the wild in Malaysia, eight-year-old Harapan will follow his brother’s path in an effort to rescue the species. 

The breeding facility where he’ll make his new home is located in Way Kambas National Park on the island of Sumatra. Due to all the conservation laws surrounding the species, several permits are required from both the U.S. and Indonesian governments before he can be shipped away. Once he arrives, conservationists are hoping he’ll hit it off with a female named Rosa who has been living in the park since the early 2000s. Terri Roth, the vice president for conservation and science at the Cincinnatti Zoo, has faith in Harapan's charming abilities. According to Roth, “He’s a really fun rhino. He seems like a little bit of a pistol, quite frankly."

[h/t: National Geographic]

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Courtesy of The National Aviary
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Animals
Watch This Live Stream to See Two Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch From Their Eggs
Courtesy of The National Aviary
Courtesy of The National Aviary

Bringing an African penguin chick into the world is an involved process, with both penguin parents taking turns incubating the egg. Now, over a month since they were laid, two penguin eggs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are ready to hatch. As Gizmodo reports, the baby birds will make their grand debut live for the world to see on the zoo's website.

The live stream follows couple Sidney and Bette in their nest, waiting for their young to emerge. The first egg was laid November 7 and is expected to hatch between December 14 and 18. The second, laid November 11, should hatch between December 18 and 22.

"We are thrilled to give the public this inside view of the arrival of these rare chicks," National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy said in a statement. "This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a critically endangered species that is in rapid decline in the wild, and to learn about the work that the National Aviary is doing to care for and propagate African penguins."

African penguins are endangered, with less than 25,000 pairs left in the wild today. The National Aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the U.S., works to conserve threatened populations and raise awareness of them with bird breeding programs and educational campaigns.

After Sidney and Bette's new chicks are born, they will care for them in the nest for their first three weeks of life. The two penguins are parenting pros at this point: The monogamous couple has already hatched and raised three sets of chicks together.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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