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'BamBam' Arrives At Zoo As 'Harapan' Says Farewell

"You say 'goodbye,' I say 'hello.'"

The Cincinnati Zoo is welcoming a new addition to its Manatee Springs exhibit. A two-year-old male named "BamBam" is joining 25-year-old "Betsy." BamBam was rescued in January from Desoto Canal in Brevard County, FL. The Zoo says he's "been receiving critical care for severe cold stress."

Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
BamBam sometimes chews on rocks from the bottom of his tank, much to the dismay of his keepers. They're hoping he'll drop the habit once he's more comfortable in his new environment.

The cold stress on his tail resulted in damaged tissue, similar to frostbite in humans, which had to be surgically removed. Curator Winton Ray says the damage doesn't appear to have negatively affected BamBam's ability to swim.

The Cincinnati Zoo is one of just two U.S. zoos outside of Florida that has a manatee rehabilitation process. Once BamBam is grown and healthy, he'll be returned to Florida with the goal of being released back into the wild. That could take one-to-two years.

To date, the Zoo has rehabilitated 15 manatees, with 12 being released back into the wild. A thirteenth, "Abigail," is scheduled for release soon. Ray says it's difficult to quantify whether a program is successful. Once manatees are released they're "tracked by a radio collar for about year. And if at the end of that year, they are still in the wild, they're still alive, they're functioning what the biologists feel is normally, that is considered a success."


Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
Harapan roams about his enclosure eating leaves during his final day at the Cincinnati Zoo.

The Zoo's Sumatran rhino, "Harapan," made his last few laps around his enclosure Thursday. He's being transferred to a breeding facility in Indonesia.

Zoo volunteer Donna Mancini spends her Sundays educating guests about the Harapan and the Zoo's rhino program. She remembers watching as Harapan was born. She says she has mixed emotions about his departure.

"I did see him born and I've been with him every Sunday - and many, many other days - down here talking about him," she says. "But he's going to have a chance to breed and continue the species, and that's the most important thing."

As WVXU's Ann Thompson reported in August, 8-year-old Harapan is sexually mature and his opportunity to breed and contribute to his species' survival exists only at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS), a breeding facility in the Way Kambas National Park.

Harapan's departure effectively ends the Cincinnati Zoo's Sumatran rhino breeding program, the only captive breeding program in the United States. Dr. Terri Roth, Director of the Zoo's Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) said, "Though the numbers are frighteningly low, Sumatran rhinos still exist in the forests of Sumatra. We believe there is still time to save them and we are by no means giving up that fight now."

There are 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the world. Harapan is the last one in the Western Hemisphere.

Click here to read more about how Harapan will make the long trek to Indonesia.

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.