Experts here to discuss ways to save
By Diedtra Henderson, Denver Post Science Writer
A pinch of rhino
horn cures the congestion and fever that accompanies SARS, at least
one doctor in China is saying. That advice to a panic-stricken
populace has raised worries about renewed rhinoceros poaching in
the few regions where the lumbering creatures still exist. Post
/ Glen Martin
Mighty rhinos ranged the globe for
some 50 million years, but in recent decades their numbers have
analyze their health, diet and even their libido converge today
on Denver to exchange knowledge that might reverse the rhinos'
SARS is simply the latest challenge.
Cao, a program officer with the World Wildlife Fund, focuses on
endangered species among the 5,000 animals whose pelts, bones,
shells and organs are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Rhino
horns are thought to cure lung ailments, coughing and high fever.
research institute based in Beijing interviewed traditional Chinese
medical practitioners in provinces where SARS raged for their thoughts
on treating the sometimes-fatal respiratory ailment. One doctor's
precise recipe included rhino horn among the combination of medicinal
plants to be boiled and drunk like soup.
Obviously, these doctors know nothing about endangered species
said. "If even one of them mentions (rhino horn), it's going
to be a problem."
Rhinos have no natural predator. A
lion or a tiger might snag a calf if a mother were inattentive. "But
they never leave them alone," said
Lynn Kramer, vice president for biological programs at the Denver
Zoo, who will give today's introductory remarks.
Fewer than 20,000
rhinos exist in the wild and in captivity in Africa and Asia. They've
been hunted for their horn, also thought
an aphrodisiac, and flushed from their natural habitats by war,
fires and overcrowding.
They're disappearing for several reasons," Kramer said. "One
of them is because of the economic recession and political unrest
in those parts of the world makes it difficult to get the funding
to provide them with adequate parks and habitat."
had mixed results in increasing rhino numbers in captivity.
Denver Zoo has had 14 births since 1966 with four different breeding
pairs of black rhinos, Kramer said. "The end result is our
deaths have pretty much equaled our births in captivity. They've
had a number
of medical problems. ... It's been tough to produce and maintain
as many rhinos as we'd like."
Comparing their internal organs,
rhinos are pretty similar to horses. But zoos haven't had the same
success in assisted reproduction
with rhinos that's been seen in the horse world.
In theory, semen
could be collected, but it would mean immobilizing the massive
beast and using a pulse of electricity or manual stimulation
to coax it free. That danger past, females throw in their own challenge:
They have a "tortuous" cervix that makes artificial insemination
tricky, Kramer said.
So, most zoo breeding has been done
The Cincinnati Zoo recently boasted
a first: The first Sumatran rhino bred and born in captivity since
1889. The bouncing
900 pounds in his first year.
That he was born at all is thanks
to bribing his mother, Emi, with a basket of bananas and apples
to allow her blood to be
Using hormone analysis and ultrasound, the zoo determined
when she would
be most receptive to Ipuh's sexual advances.