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Another First for CREW: Indian Rhino Posthumously Fathers a Calf

CREW has done it again! We are excited to announce the birth of a female Indian rhino calf produced by artificial insemination (AI) conducted by CREW Reproductive Physiologist, Dr. Monica Stoops, and born on June 5 at the Buffalo Zoo. From a historical standpoint, this is the first offspring for a male rhino who never contributed to the genetics of the Indian rhino population during his lifetime – a major victory for endangered species around the world and a lifetime of work in the making.

Rhino calf Monica

Rhino calf Monica

The father, “Jimmy,” died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2004.  Over the course of those ten years, Jimmy’s sperm was stored at -320°F in CREW’s CryoBioBank™ in Cincinnati, before it was taken to Buffalo, thawed and used in the AI.

Jimmy the Indian Rhino

Jimmy the Indian Rhino

“We are excited to share the news of Tashi’s calf with the world as it demonstrates how collaboration and teamwork among the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) organizations are making fundamental contributions to rhino conservation,” said Dr. Monica Stoops. “It is deeply heartening to know that the Cincinnati Zoo’s beloved male Indian rhino, Jimmy, will live on through this calf and we are proud that CREW’s CryoBioBank™ continues to contribute to this endangered species’ survival.”

“Tashi,” the Buffalo Zoo’s 17-year-old female has previously conceived and successfully given birth through natural breeding in both 2004 and 2008.  Unfortunately, her mate passed away and the Buffalo Zoo’s new male Indian rhino has not yet reached sexual maturity. Because long intervals between pregnancies in female rhinos can result in long-term infertility, keepers at the Buffalo Zoo knew it was critical to get Tashi pregnant again and reached out to Dr. Stoops for her expertise.

In February of 2013, Dr. Stoops worked closely with Buffalo Zoo’s rhino keeper Joe Hauser and veterinarian Dr. Kurt Volle to perform a standing sedation AI procedure on Tashi. Scientifically speaking, 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.  This is a science that could be necessary for thousands of species across the globe as habitat loss, poaching, and population fragmentation (among other reasons) threaten many with extinction.

The Buffalo Zoo staff monitored Tashi’s pregnancy over the 15-16 month gestation period and at 3:30 p.m., on June 5, she gave birth to a healthy female calf, weighing 144 pounds.

Rhino calf Monica,  Lead  Rhino Keeper Joe Hauser, CREW Reproductive Physiologist Dr. Monica Stoops

Rhino calf Monica, Lead Rhino Keeper Joe Hauser, and CREW Reproductive Physiologist Dr. Monica Stoops with CryoBioBank

“Without Dr. Stoops’ dedication to the species, and to the development of AI science, there is no doubt this calf would not be here today,” said Hauser. “She has spent countless hours spear-heading research and technology for Indian rhino conservation and the Buffalo Zoo is excited to acknowledge that dedication and announce that the name of the calf is “Monica.”

Tashi’s calf demonstrates that AI science is a repeatable and valuable tool to help manage the captive Indian rhino population. With only 59 Indian rhinos in captivity in North America and approximately 2,500 remaining in the wild, being able to successfully introduce genetics that are non or under-represented in the population is critical to maintaining the genetic diversity necessary to keep a population healthy and self-sustaining.

“We are always thrilled to welcome a new baby to the Buffalo Zoo, but this birth is particularly exciting because the science involved is critical to saving endangered animals,” said Dr. Donna Fernandes, President of the Buffalo Zoo. “This type of professional collaboration among AZA Zoos is vital to the important work we do as conservation organizations and we are honored to play a critical role.”

July 3, 2014   No Comments

Nikki Gave Birth This Morning

Randy Pairan and rhino team caring for baby rhino.

Nikki gave birth early this morning to the world’s first live Indian rhino calf produced by artificial insemination (AI).  She delivered a male calf at 6:06 a.m. in her indoor stall. Currently, the calf is in critical condition with Zoo staff working diligently to feed and stabilize him. Meanwhile, Nikki is doing well and will remain indoors.

Nikki has been monitored 24 hours a day since the first of October. Nikki became increasingly restless throughout Monday evening into the night. Cincinnati Zoo Volunteer Observers called Zoo staff in early Tuesday morning. Nikki delivered her calf while volunteer and staff watched anxiously via a live video feed. As soon as the calf was born,  not moving or breathing,  Zoo staff immediately jumped into action to assist and resuscitate the calf.  The calf has been successfully breathing on its own since.

“The staff here at the Zoo is working tirelessly to do everything possible to support this calf,” said Dr. Monica Stoops, CREW Reproductive Physiologist and project leader at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. “We will continue to work to assist him during this critical period.”

Not only is this the world’s first successful live birth of an endangered Indian rhino conceived by artificial insemination (AI), but it is also the world’s first Indian rhino produced with frozen-thawed sperm.

October 27, 2010   10 Comments

Day 480 of Pregnancy for Nikki

Nikki - Indian Rhino

Today is day 480 of Nikki’s pregnancy. Indian rhinos are pregnant for 462 – 491 days, so she could deliver her calf any day. Many visitors ask the same questions when they’re watching Nikki, so here are the answers to your FAQs…

Q: Why doesn’t she have water in her pool?
A: The water temperature is too cool for Nikki and would be too cool for the baby. She still has access to plenty of drinking water.

Q: Does she give birth lying down?
A: She’ll probably be lying down for the final push but goes up and down during labor.

Q: How long does labor last?
A: About 3 hours.

Q: How much will the calf weigh?
A: 80 – 100 pounds

Q: How much does Nikki weigh?
A: 4,299 pounds!!

Q: When will the calf start to nurse?
A: About 30 minutes – 2 hours after birth

If you have any other questions, please post them.

October 19, 2010   26 Comments