TAIPEI (Kyodo) -- A zoo in Taiwan agreed Tuesday to give a Japanese zoo one of its female white rhinos, which will make the journey to Saitama Prefecture near Tokyo next year.
Representatives from Leofoo Development Co. and Tobu Railway Co. inked the agreement at a signing ceremony at a Taipei hotel.
The ceremony, which coincided with World Rhino Day, was witnessed by Kuo Chung-shi, secretary general of the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association, and Mitsuaki Hoshino, the chief deputy representative of Japan's de facto embassy in Taiwan, the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association.
Hoshino revealed in his opening remarks that the four-year-old female rhino named Emma is scheduled to travel to Tobu Zoo and Amusement Park in March next year. Her partner-to-be is a two-year-old white rhino at the zoo named Moran.
Lulu Chuang, chairwoman of Leofoo Tourism Group, said Emma will be sent off to Tobu Zoo to help improve the genetic diversity of the endangered white rhino.
"This exportation is only a beginning," she said. "We hope many more countries will join the effort in the future."
Emma was bred at the Leofoo Safari Park in Hsinchu County, northwestern Taiwan. Since the park brought eight white rhinos from Africa in 1979, their number has grown to 23.
Sean Wu, head of the zoo's animal management department, told Kyodo News that Emma was chosen because of her young age and small size, which makes transporting easier.
Emma is about 250 centimeters long and weighs 650 kilograms. The largest rhino at the park weighs in at around 2,100 kg.
Wu said every rhino has a unique personality and described Emma as being shy and mild-tempered.
According to Wu, female rhinos reach sexual maturity at around four or five years old, but they do not have their first calf until they are seven or eight. In other words, it will be at least three years before Emma has her first calf.
According to its website, Tobu Zoo cares for roughly 1,200 different animals from over 120 species, including a rare species of white tiger.