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Taiwanese zoo's white rhino 'Emma' to be sent to Japan next month

This March 2, 2021 photo shows a southern white rhinoceros to be sent to Japan. (Kyodo)

TAIPEI (Kyodo) -- A southern white rhinoceros bred in Taiwan is scheduled to leave for a Japanese zoo next month to help improve the genetic diversity of the endangered species there, zoo officials said on Tuesday.

    Tony Liang, the executive assistant manager of the Leofoo Development Co., said about 10 staffers of the Leofoo Safari Park in Hsinchu County, northwestern Taiwan, will travel to Japan at the end of this month to help with the arrival of the 5-year-old female named Emma, scheduled for the middle of next month.

    "The marriage between Emma and her partner-to-be is a historic event in the history of animal diplomacy between Taiwan and Japan," Liang said.

    He said the Leofoo zoo had originally planned to send Emma to her partner-to-be, a 2-year-old southern white rhino named Moran at the Tobu Zoo and Amusement Park in Saitama Prefecture near Tokyo, this month, but the plan was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Leofoo Development and Tobu Railway Co. inked an agreement in Taipei on Sept. 22 last year to help the Japanese zoo with the reproduction of white rhinos, of which the southern white rhino is one of two subspecies.

    Since the park brought eight such rhinos from Africa in 1979, their number has grown to 23.

    Sean Wu, head of the zoo's animal management department, told reporters that Emma was chosen because of her young age and small size, which makes transporting easier.

    Emma is about 2.5 meters long and weighs 682 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.

    To help her adapt to the new environment in Japan, Wu said she has been trained to understand Japanese commands like "come" and "no," as well as to enter a transport crate.

    According to Wu, female rhinos reach sexual maturity at around 4 or 5 years old, but they do not have their first calf until they are 7 or 8. In other words, it will be at least three years before Emma has her first calf.

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