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A RARE Endeavour: CREW Scientists Assist Rhino Reproduction

With a history of verified results from collaborative research, CREW scientists understand the importance of developing
scientific capacity within individuals and organizations throughout North America to overcome the serious loss of
genetic diversity facing captive African and Asian rhino populations.

Indian rhino (Photo: DJJAM)

Indian rhino (Photo: DJJAM)

In the first year of a three-year National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), CREW
has begun building a Rhino Assisted Reproduction Enterprise (RARE) in collaboration with SeaWorld Busch Gardens Reproductive Research Center and several other zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. These zoos contribute the veterinary and rhino keeper staff time needed to learn and implement rhino assisted reproductive techniques,
with the necessary training, tools and laboratory support provided by CREW.

One objective of the grant is to contribute to the genetic management and propagation of captive Indian rhinos through artificial insemination (AI). Although AI in Indian rhinos is still a work in progress, the achievements made during CREW’s initial 8-year effort are impressive with six conceptions and four term calves produced. Because there is a steep learning curve to these procedures, we are hopeful that success will become even more common over time. Participating zoos agree to collect and ship rhino urine samples on a frequent basis to CREW for hormone analysis needed to time AI. Rhino keeper staff at each facility condition females to enter a chute for the purpose of performing AI and the standing sedation protocol already established for successful intrauterine AI in this species is implemented prior to expected ovulation date. Each facility observes one AI before performing the next AI under CREW supervision.

Dr. Monica Stoops (CREW) and Dr. Anneke Moresco (Denver Zoo) discuss results of an ultrasound exam conducted on a sedated female Indian rhino.

Dr. Monica Stoops (CREW) and Dr. Anneke Moresco (Denver Zoo) discuss results of an ultrasound exam conducted on a sedated female Indian rhino.

We are happy to report that the Denver Zoo team is now fully trained in Indian rhino AI and is performing procedures in house using sperm from CREW’s CryoBioBank. Our long-term commitment to rhino conservation has positioned us to respond to the growing need of zoos to build their capacity for assisted reproductive technology for rhinos. We are gladly meeting this challenge and enjoying establishing a network of RARE researchers united for a common cause – to save rhinos. A RARE endeavor indeed.

February 8, 2016   2 Comments

A History of the Zoo’s Sumatran Rhino Breeding Program

The Sumatran rhino is considered the most endangered of all rhino species and perhaps the most endangered large mammal on Earth. It is estimated that no more than 100 animals exist on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. The Zoo has worked for more than 30 years to save this species from extinction. Scientific breakthroughs by scientists at the Zoo’s Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) resulted in the birth of three calves at the Zoo, the first place to successfully breed this critically endangered species in captivity in over a century.

Sumatran rhino named Harapan (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Sumatran rhino named Harapan (Photo: Kathy Newton)

By 2014, only one Sumatran rhino remained in the Western hemisphere, a lone male named Harapan. With no chance to bring a female to the United States, the Zoo made the difficult yet significant decision to send Harapan to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia and transported him there in late October. There he will have the chance to mate and contribute to the survival of his species. It is the end of an era at the Cincinnati Zoo, but a fresh new hope for the Sumatran rhino. The Cincinnati Zoo remains committed to saving the Sumatran rhino by supporting Rhino Protection Units in the wild and continuing to lend support to the breeding program at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary.

Join me in a celebration of the milestones achieved by the Zoo’s Sumatran rhino breeding program over the past 30 years, with special thanks to the tireless dedication and commitment of Dr. Terri Roth, her team of CREW scientists, and the rhino keepers.

Dr. Terri Roth (Photo: Tom Uhlman)

Dr. Terri Roth (Photo: Tom Uhlman)

Sumatran Rhino Breeding Program Timeline

1984 – The Zoo officially formed a partnership (The Sumatran Rhino Trust Agreement) with Indonesia to establish a Sumatran rhino captive breeding program.

1989 – The Zoo received its first Sumatran rhino, a female named Mahatu.

1991 – The Zoo received its first male Sumatran rhino, Ipuh.  Unfortunately, initial breeding attempts with Mahatu were unsuccessful and she passed away in 1992.

Ipuh enjoys his browse.

Ipuh enjoys his browse.

1995 – The Zoo received a new female Sumatran rhino named Emi.

1996 – CREW scientists initiated research into the reproductive physiology of Sumatran rhinos using endocrinology and ultrasonography.

Dr. Roth conducts an ultrasound on Emi

Dr. Roth conducts an ultrasound on Emi

1997 – The first successful mating was achieved with Emi and Ipuh. Unfortunately, she lost the pregnancy by day 42 of gestation.

Ipuh and Emi

Ipuh and Emi

1998-1999 – Four additional pregnancies were confirmed by ultrasound; all were lost by three months of gestation.

2000 – A sixth pregnancy was confirmed. This time, Emi was prescribed a hormone supplement.

September 13, 2001 – Success! Emi gave birth to the first Sumatran rhino calf bred and born in captivity in 112 years. He was named Andalas.

Andalas, just one day old (Photo: David Jenike)

Andalas, just one day old (Photo: David Jenike)

July 30, 2004 – Emi gave birth to a second calf, a female named Suci.

Emi and her second calf, Suci (Photo: David Jenike)

Emi and her second calf, Suci (Photo: David Jenike)

February 19, 2007 – Andalas was relocated to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia with the goal of breeding with a female there.

Dr. Roth visits Andalas at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary

Dr. Roth visits Andalas at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary

April 29, 2007 – A third calf, a male named Harapan, was born at the Zoo to Emi.

Newborn Harapan sticks close to his mom's side.

Newborn Harapan sticks close to his mom’s side.

September 5, 2009 – Sadly, Emi passed away due to hemochromatosis, or iron storage disease. Her legacy lives on.

2010 – Andalas bred his mate, Ratu, producing the first pregnancy for the Indonesian breeding program. Unfortunately, Ratu lost her first pregnancy.

2011 – Ratu conceived for the third time and was prescribed the same hormone supplement successfully employed with Emi at the Cincinnati Zoo in the effort to produce Andalas.

June 23, 2012 – Ratu gave birth to a calf named Andatu at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary; he is the first captive bred and born Sumatran rhino in Southeast Asia.

Ratu and her calf, Andatu, at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary.

Ratu and her calf, Andatu, at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary.

February 2013 – Ipuh passes away from thyroid cancer at the approximate age of 33 years old. He was one of the oldest Sumatran rhinos in captivity.

March 30, 2014 – Sadly, Suci passes away from hemochromatosis, the same iron storage disease that befell her mother. Though Suci never reproduced, she contributed much to the body of knowledge we now have on Sumatran rhino development and maturation.

October 2014 – To carry on Ipuh’s legacy, his preserved remains are displayed at the Cincinnati Museum Center as part of the zoology collection.

2014 – The Zoo provided matching funds that contributed to a Debt for Nature deal struck between the United States and Indonesia. In return for lowering debt owed to the United States, Indonesia will commit nearly $12.7 million towards the conservation and protection of critically endangered species, including the Sumatran rhino, and their habitats over the next seven years.

October 2015 – Harapan made his journey from the Cincinnati Zoo to Sumatra. The hope is that he can breed with a female at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary and contribute to the survival of his species. Good luck, Harry!  Video of Harapan’s journey to Sumatra.

Harapan settles into his new home in Sumatra.

Harapan settles into his new home in Sumatra.

May 2016 – Expected birth date of Andalas and Ratu’s second calf in Indonesia!

Andatu and Ratu at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary

Andatu and Ratu at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary

December 1, 2015   No Comments

Rhino Trek – New Black Rhino’s Journey from Atlanta to Cincinnati

Male black rhinoceros “Faru,” which is short for Kifaru (the Swahili name for rhino), arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo on July 21, 2015.

Faru and Seyia – A Match Made…by the SSP!

The 2,800 pound rhino was brought to the Cincinnati Zoo from Zoo Atlanta on a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoo and Aquarium’s (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP has determined that Faru and the Cincinnati Zoo’s female black rhino, “Seyia,” are a good genetic match.  So, if all goes well, there could be rhino calves in the Zoo’s future!

Faru

Faru

Seyia

Seyia

Keepers have spent the past several months getting to know Faru and his behavioral patterns. He will spend 2 to 6 weeks settling in, learning behaviors, and getting to know the Cincinnati Zoo animal care staff before being introduced to visitors.

“There is frequent communication between keepers before the rhinoceros is transferred. We really try to learn their behavioral patterns and habits so we can best accommodate them once they’ve arrived. The transfer process is incredibly involved,” said head keeper Randy Pairan.

Keeper Marjorie Barthel says, “He is doing well. We are taking things very slowly with him to allow him to move forward with the least amount of stress possible. He has come so far already in his new home.  Right now I’m working on building a relationship with him. We need to trust each other.”

Faru was born at the San Antonio Zoological Gardens & Aquarium in 2004.  He moved to Atlanta in April 2011 where he bred one calf. Because black rhinos are solitary animals, Faru will stay separated from Seyia until late fall.  They will be put together when they are familiar with each other and ready to breed.  Introductions are going well.

Seyia and Faru meet for the first time.

Seyia and Faru meet for the first time.

Faru’s Journey to Cincinnati

So how exactly do you move a large rhino from Atlanta to Cincinnati? Follow Faru’s journey in the images below to find out!

In Atlanta picking up the crate with a fork lift to take it to the truck.

In Atlanta picking up the crate with a fork lift to take it to the truck.

Atlanta crew raising the crate to the truck.

Atlanta crew raising the crate to the truck.

All loaded and ready to go!

All loaded and ready to go!

He made it to Cincinnati! A giant crane carefully lowering the crate into his new yard.

He made it to Cincinnati! A giant crane carefully lowering the crate into his new yard.

Mwah.

Mwah.

About Black Rhinos

The black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) is native to the eastern and central areas of Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.  They eat mostly leafy plants, branches, shoots, thorny wood bushes, and fruit. Black rhinos also have two large horns made of keratin that they use for defense, intimidation, and feeding. An adult can weigh anywhere between 1,760 and 3,080 pounds, and newborns (calves) weigh between 35 and 55 pounds. Black rhinos breed year-round and have a gestation period that lasts 15 months. They are one of the oldest known species of mammals.

Faru’s species is critically endangered with more than 115 individuals being managed by the SSP.  As recently as 1970, an estimated 65,000 black rhinos could be found throughout sub-Saharan Africa. However, between 1970 and 1992, 96-percent of Africa’s remaining black rhinos were killed in a wave of poaching due to the value of their horns. Heightened conservation efforts following the poaching increase led the black rhino population to grow from 2,410 in 1995 to a current total of 4,848. Today, black rhinos live in protected parks located in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, and Tanzania. Poaching is still a serious problem, threatening to wipe out decades of conservation efforts. Even protected parks experience poaching breeches, which means the amount of safe land available to black rhinos is diminishing.

The Cincinnati Zoo’s Carl H. Lindner Jr. Family Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) will be doing reproductive research on Faru and Seyia as part of the continued efforts to save the black rhinos. All five species of rhinoceros—White, Black, Greater One-Horned (aka Indian), Sumatran, and Javan—are perilously close to extinction in the wild.

August 7, 2015   3 Comments