Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rare Rhino Pregnancy Gives Hope to Species

Andalas-Ratu love story proves conservation efforts can work

CINCINNATI and LOS ANGELES and SUMATRA, Indonesia, Feb. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Conservationists across the world are celebrating a pregnancy in one of the world's most endangered species, the Sumatran Rhino. The pregnancy of female Ratu, born in Indonesia, and male Andalas, the first of only three Sumatran rhinos born in captivity in more than 112 years, is giving hope to international rhino biologists. The breeding occurred at Indonesia's Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Way Kambas National Park following months of gradual introduction by scent, sound, sight and physical proximity. The calf is expected to be born in May 2011.

This is no ordinary pregnancy. Ratu wandered into a village just outside Way Kambas National Park in 2006; Andalas was born at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2001, raised at the Los Angeles Zoo and then transferred to SRS in 2007. With help from Dr. Robin Radcliffe of the International Rhino Foundation's (IRF) Rhino Conservation Medicine Program, the then-5 1/2-year-old Andalas journeyed more than 10,000 miles on a 63-hour trip by plane, truck and ferry.

"A combination of sound science, international collaboration among government, non-profits, and zoos, as well as timing and personal chemistry, has led to this groundbreaking event," said Dr. Susie Ellis, IRF executive director. "Sumatran rhino numbers have decreased by more than 50 percent over the last 15 years in the wild."

The Sumatran rhino population is estimated at approximately 200 individuals in the wild and 10 currently in captivity worldwide. Ratu's pregnancy represents the hope for a future generation.

Dr. Terri Roth, director of Cincinnati Zoo's Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) and vice president for IRF's Asia programs, has used her extensive training in reproductive biology to produce three Sumatran rhinos beginning with Andalas in 2001.

"Sumatran rhinos are very solitary by nature and aggressive towards one another except when a female is in estrus," said Dr. Roth. "Through science, we can determine when the female is ready to ovulate so she is paired with a male at the right time and fighting is minimized while the likelihood of conception is optimized. It is wonderful to see the science developed at CREW help our Indonesian colleagues achieve success in Sumatra."

To learn more about IRF, visit
Source: International Rhino Foundation

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