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Category — Animal Sciences

Meeting Baby Rhino Ethan

Alabama Bunker Standoff Rhino

Indian rhino calf Ethan

On June 22 2013, the Montgomery Zoo in Alabama announced the birth a special rhino baby that has very strong ties to Cincinnati.  Sixteen months earlier, we applied the artificial insemination (AI) technique pioneered at the Cincinnati Zoo to a 12 year old female Indian rhino  named ‘Jeta’ at the Montgomery Zoo.  While Jeta successfully conceived and gave birth through natural breeding in 2005 and 2007, AI was requested in 2011 due to behavioral incompatibility with her current mate, Himal.  The ability to integrate AI into the situation helped these rhinos, since risks of injuries due to aggressive interactions between the pair were avoided.  While female Indian rhinos at the Cincinnati Zoo have been conditioned for AI without the use of anesthetics, a new approach was needed in order to expand  this research to other zoos.  Although logistically difficult, the strategy worked because the Montgomery Zoo’s keeper and veterinary staff were committed to collecting samples and monitoring their rhino closely for signs of behavioral estrus.  After the third AI attempt on Jeta using sperm that had been stored in CREW’s CryoBioBank for eight years, the first Indian rhino AI pregnancy outside of Cincinnati was produced!

Jeta and Ethan

Jeta and Ethan

Jeta’s calf was given the name Ethan.  I visited Ethan and his mom this past weekend, when we filmed a live segment for the Today show.  I was joined by our Public Relations manager Tiffany Barnes who set up and organized the Today show filming in conjunction with the Montgomery Zoo.  The day we arrived, Ethan turned 2 weeks old and the Montgomery Zoo staff had just gotten the first weight on him.  Ethan weighed in at 181 lbs, confirming this little guy has not missed a single meal!

 Group Shot after Today Show filming- Doug Goode, Montgomery Zoo Director; Tiffany Barnes, Cincinnati Zoo PR Manager, Monica Stoops, CREW Scientist, Stacy Heinse, Montgomery Zoo Veterinary Technician and Marcia Woodard, Deputy Director Montgomery Zoo

Group Shot after Today Show filming- Doug Goode, Montgomery Zoo Director; Tiffany Barnes, Cincinnati Zoo PR Manager, Monica Stoops, CREW Scientist, Stacy Heinse, Montgomery Zoo Veterinary Technician and Marcia Woodard, Deputy Director Montgomery Zoo

While special circumstances may have surrounded Ethan’s birth, he is acting like any other rhino calf.  Mom Jeta is teaching him everything he needs to know about being and behaving like an Indian rhino- she is amazing!  She uses her nose and head to guide him where she wants him to be.  I love this picture taken of him during the Today show filming, here he is giving a look very typical of Indian rhinos, standing with his head held high and boldly looking on at what we were doing.

Ethan’s birth represents an important and new step in managing captive Indian rhinos.  By producing offspring from non- or under-represented individuals, CREW is helping to ensure a genetically healthy captive population of Indian rhinos exists in the future.  Most importantly, this calf signifies how collaboration among the zoo community can achieve great things for the animals in their care.  We anticipate future AI attempts will build upon this novel approach to help not only our zoo, but other zoos produce baby Indian rhinos.

June 27, 2013   2 Comments

Still Pregnant! Aardvark Update

We’ve been waiting for Padmae’s bundle of joy for weeks!  I stopped asking the keepers if anything was new with her after hearing “still waiting” 20 or 30 times.  Today, nursery keeper Dawn Strasser sent me this video update that shows the baby moving!!  This is certainly good news…but we’re still waiting!

May 22, 2013   1 Comment

Klyde’s Crate Training Update

Klyde has access to his crate every morning.

Klyde has access to his crate every morning.

Klyde’s crate conditioning is going very well!  Since my previous post, keepers have continued to work with him daily.  To start, each evening they would close off access into the crate, giving Klyde a break from seeing it through the night.  Then, in the morning, they would re-open it and he would find it contained his breakfast and extra treats.   Each day keepers moved more and more of his breakfast into the crate, creating an inviting space that allowed Klyde to feel comfortable and confident.  After several days, everyone felt they were at a point when no food needed to be offered in his other stalls except for in his crate.  This was no issue for Klyde, as every crate experience he has had thus far has been very positive.  He had no problem with his new designated feeding area.  Each morning the food would appear an inch further back in the crate, from the day before.  And every day, Klyde never even thought twice about his advancement into the crate.

Margie feed Klyde in the crate.

Marjorie feeds Klyde in the crate.

By day nine, keeper Marjorie was able to stand outside the crate, toward the front and encourage him to come in as she tossed treats into his food pile to make every inch of progress as smooth as possible.  Days 10 and 11 were breakthrough days for Klyde’s progress – he decided that his crate was  really positive place to be and confidently walked in until he had all four feet in the crate!  He was still not quite close enough to hand feed but having all four feet in, making that step up into the crate was a HUGE progression and his keepers were thrilled.  Later on day 11 of training Marjorie decided to try one more quick session and attempted to get Klyde to walk in far enough to hand feed.  He finally did it!!  Marjorie was able to reach his lip and give him some of his favorite cookies for entering that far.


Box lunch?

We are all so excited about Klyde’s progress moving forward!  In the first 11 days of training it has gone far better than ever expected, but that’s what happens when keepers and animals have such a wonderful and positive relationship!  Klyde is willing and wanting to work with his keepers and his keepers are allowing him to move at his comfort level… setting him up for success is the most important part of training!

May 8, 2013   No Comments