Rare Sumatran Rhino gets pregnant

Last Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 20:31

Jakarta: A Sumatran rhinoceros, world`s
most endangered rhino, has become pregnant and is expected to
give birth in May next year, the International Rhino
Foundation said Thursday.

According to the foundation, the pregnancy of female Ratu
followed after months of gradual introduction to Andalas, a
male rihno by scent, sound, sight and finally physical
proximity.

The calf will be the fourth of the most endangered
species to be born in captivity in more than a century.

Ratu was found wandering into a village just outside the
Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra`s Lampung Province in
2006.

Andalas was born at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical
Garden in 2001 and is the first of only three Sumatran rhinos
born in captivity in 112 years.

Andalas grew up at the Los Angeles Zoo and was
transferred to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in the Way Kambas
National Park in 2007.

Last year, after his successful transition in the
national park, Andalas was introduced to Ratu.

``A combination of sound science, international
collaboration among government, nonprofits and zoos, as well
as timing and personal chemistry, has led to this
groundbreaking event,`` said Susie Ellis, executive director
of the International Rhino Foundation.

``We have been waiting a long time to share news of a
rhino pregnancy,`` said veterinarian Dedi Candra, the
sanctuary`s animal collection coordinator.

The population of Sumatran rhinos, also known as hairy
rhinos, is estimated at around 200 in small and highly
fragmented populations in the wild in Southeast Asia in
addition to 10 in captivity worldwide.

The number living in the wild has decreased by more than
50 percent over the last 15 years.

``Every individual counts, and the captive population
represents not only an ``insurance policy`` for the wild
population, but also a means to study the basic biology of the
species, which we must understand in order to save them,``
Ellis said.

In a statement, the rhino foundation expressed hopes that
the solid success with the Sumatran rhino, which is the
smallest species of rhinos, may provide a model for the
development of a similar program for the critically endangered
Javan rhino.

The decline in the number of Sumatran and Javan rhinos is
attributed primarily to poaching for their horns, which are
highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine, fetching as
much as US$30,000 per kilogram in the black market.

The rhinos have also suffered from habitat loss as
forests have been cleared for plantations.




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