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SOS Rhino : In the News : Her death may help rhinos live

Her death may help rhinos live

18 January 2006

Rapunzel, 1,200 pounds of lovable ugly before old age and infirmities forced Bronx Zoo officials to put the rare Sumatran rhino peacefully to rest, is now under the roof of the American Museum of Natural History as skin and bones.

Museum officials said yesterday that her remains will be used for DNA and other studies to help better understand the rare and extremely endangered creatures.

"It's very sad when this happens, but we're glad we can learn," said Darrel Frost, the museum's associate dean of science for collections. "This really gives us an opportunity to learn something about a special animal that's in real trouble."

Rapunzel, named for her breed's distinctive long, shaggy red hair, was one of only 400 or so fellow Sumatran rhinos left on the planet before the elderly and ailing animal was euthanized Christmas week.

Rapunzel was not the prettiest of beasts, but her sweet disposition and the bright, innocent look in her eyes endeared her to zoo staffers.

"Rapunzel was a very gentle and lovable animal, and a favorite among Bronx Zoo staff," said Zoo Director Jim Breheny. "She gave our visitors the opportunity to meet and learn about an extremely rare species. Now, she will contribute to scientific knowledge about these highly endangered rhinos."

Rapunzel was rescued in 1989 from a tract of rain forest in Sumatra slated to be cleared for oil-palm plantations, and debuted in 1990 at the Bronx Zoo.

Thought to be in her mid-30's, she was one of the oldest of her kind in any zoo. Four Sumatran rhinos remain in two U.S. zoos, in Cincinnati and Los Angeles.

The Wildlife Conservation Society - the Bronx Zoo's parent organization - works to protect Asian habitats that support Sumatran rhinos, such as Kaeng Krachan National Park in Thailand and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in Sumatra. Originally published on January 18, 2006

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