Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) sperm samples were collected from a post-copulatory female and characterized to determine their potential for sperm preservation and future use in artificial insemination. Five samples of acceptable quality from one male were used to compare the effect of two cryoprotectants (glycerol and dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO)) and two post-thaw protocols (untreated and glass wool column) on sperm quality. The percentage of motile spermatozoa, sperm motility index (0-100) and sperm morphology were evaluated subjectively, and viability and acrosomal status were assessed using fluorescent markers. Evaluations of frozen-thawed spermatozoa were performed over a 6 h incubation interval. Post-coital semen samples (n = 5; 104.0 +/- 9.1 ml; 2.5 +/- 0.8 x 10(9) total spermatozoa; mean +/- SEM) exhibited a sperm motility index of 56.7 +/- 3.3, and contained 40.2 +/- 6.3%, 72.0 +/- 3.2% and 79.8 +/- 6.5% normal, viable and acrosome-intact spermatozoa, respectively. Glycerol and DMSO were equally effective as cryoprotectants and, regardless of post-thaw protocol, samples retained greater than 80% of all pre-freeze characteristic values. Processing semen samples through glass wool yielded higher quality samples, but only half the total number of motile spermatozoa compared with untreated samples. High values for pre-freeze sperm characteristics were also maintained after cryopreservation of epididymal spermatozoa from one black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) using the same protocol. In summary, Sumatran rhinoceros spermatozoa of moderate quality can be collected from post-copulatory females. Rhinoceros sperm samples show only slight reductions in quality after cryopreservation and thawing and have potential for use in artificial insemination.