Bogor, West Java - Poniran, 48, is an animal keeper at Taman Safari Indonesia, and has been taking care of African white rhinos at the conservation site for the last 30 years. Since the age of 18, Poniran has dedicated himself to protecting the endangered species. On October 26, 2020 he helped a female African white rhino, named Chuma, give birth to Azsyifa. The baby mammal weighed 50 kg and stood at 50 centimeters tall.
“I felt so happy when Azsyifa was born. We know that African white rhinos are very difficult to breed. Witnessing the birth of a baby rhino feels like having a new family member," Poniran told the Jakarta Globe.
Poniran attends the rhino sanctuary every day to conduct routine health checks and to ensure that Chuma feeds Azsyifa every 30 minutes. He also gives Azsyifa additional food such as nuts, carrots, leaves, bananas, and grass.
He usually plays games with Azsifa in the afternoon before returning home.
"Rhinos are very sensitive animals. They know when we are hurting physically or emotionally, if we are in a bad mood or sad or anxious, they feel that too," he said.
With the birth of Azsyifa, the Bogor Safari Park now has five white rhinos, including two males and three females. Female white rhinos will only give birth every 2.5 – 5 years.
The white rhino, the most critically endangered species of rhinoceros, is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The herbivore, which can weigh up to 4 tons, has been hunted to the brink of extinction for its large horns. The horns are sold for medicinal use in Asia and for ornamental purposes in North Africa and the Middle East. The species is critically endangered and is possibly extinct in the wild.
"In the last 30 years, I have assisted in the births of three rhinos, and I thank God that everything is going well. The rhino population in this world is critically endangered, and I will be distraught if they go extinct or their population continues to decrease,” Poniran said.
“Twenty years ago, there was an adult rhino here, he was very old. I came in one day and saw that he had died. It was horrible. Yes, it was like losing a family member."