Fifty hours of travel by air, ferry and truck over a distance of 10,253 miles makes for a pretty epic journey, but the Western Hemisphere's only Sumatran rhino has taken it in his stride.

Known to his keepers and zoo visitors as Harapan (or Harry), the eight-year-old pachyderm left his home at the Cincinnati Zoo is the US for good this past Friday. His destination? The Indonesian island of Sumatra, and specifically the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS), a breeding facility located in the Way Kambas National Park.

Harry Hairy 2015 11 02
Harry at the zoo. Sumatran rhinos are also known as “hairy rhinos” because of the reddish-brown hair that covers most of the body. Image: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden/Facebook

This bit of trans-oceanic travel wasn't just about racking up voyager miles. Harry, until now the last of his kind living outside of South Asia, has reached sexual maturity, and the hope is that he'll pick out a mate from among the three potential candidates waiting for him at the sanctuary. 

With only around 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild, the species is listed as critically endangered, so giving Harry the opportunity to father calves is an important move for the survival of his species. “No one wants to see Harry go. Many of us witnessed his birth here eight years ago and cared for his parents and siblings. We’re attached, to say the least.  We also know that giving him the opportunity to breed in Sumatra is the right thing to do for the species,” says Dr. Terri Roth, Director of the Zoo’s Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW). 

As you can imagine, transporting a 1,800-pound rhino across oceans is no easy feat, and the team at the zoo has been working hard to prepare Harry for the trip, carrying out physical exams and getting the passenger used his specialised travel crate, which comes complete with a stable door that can be opened in transit for feeding and medical checks.

Travelling with Harry are zoo veterinarian Dr Jenny Nollman and his keeper, Paul Reinhart. To make sure the supersized passenger is as comfortable as possible, his favourite snacks will also be on offer throughout the trip. “We’re bringing three kinds of ficus and his favourite treats – apples, bananas and pears. He’s food motivated, so we’ll offer him something to eat to keep him calm and happy throughout the trip,” explains Reinhart. 

Yesterday, the team announced in a Facebook update that Harry, whose name means "Hope", had arrived safely in Jakarta, and would be continuing on to Sumatra. And just hours ago, there was confirmation that he'd made it to his new home:

Because of dwindling population numbers and a habitat stitched from remnants of rainforest, it's becoming increasingly difficult for individual Sumatran rhinos to find each other in the wild in order to breed – and that makes captive-breeding programmes crucial for their survival. Just recently, the species was declared regionally extinct in Malaysia.

The Cincinnati Zoo’s Sumatran rhino breeding program has been the only one of its kind outside of Indonesia to successfully produce calves, including the first calf bred and born in captivity in 112 years back in 2001.

“Indonesia is receiving a very handsome, healthy and spirited rhino from the US, and we hope that after he settles in, he will be successful breeding at the sanctuary,” says Dr. Roth. “[And] I think Harapan will be thrilled to hear the voices of others of his kind when he arrives.”

You can track Harry's progress by following #HopeforHarry.

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Top header image: Charles W. Hardin, Wikimedia Commons