The Buffalo Zoo has a new resident. Monica the Indian rhinoceros. While the news of a female rhino calf being born in captivity is pretty exciting, the fact that the little rhino’s father passed away ten years ago is a modern day miracle. For a decade, the father rhino’s sperm has been kept at The Cincinnati Zoo, waiting for the right time to work its wonders for the endangered species. While not exactly Jurassic Park in proportions, the idea that science has allowed for this sort of preservation of a species is fairly mind-boggling.
A female rhino by the name of Tashi, delivered the 144 pound calf on June 5, 2014. It turns out that while there is a male rhino residing at The Zoo, the animal has not yet reached sexual maturity. Tashi’s original mate passed away, leaving Buffalo Zoo’s head rhino keeper, Joe Hauser, and veterinarian, Dr. Kurt Volle with no choice but to move forward with Plan B. With the help of Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW), the team was able to come up with an artificial insemination strategy that would prevent the possibility of Tashi’s long-term infertility due to prolonged intervals in-between pregnancies.
“We are excited to share the news of Tashi’s calf with the world, as it demonstrates how collaboration and teamwork among AZA Zoos (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) are making fundamental contributions to rhino conservation,” said Dr. Monica Stoops, Reproductive Physiologist at the Cincinnati Zoo’s CREW. “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.”
“We are always thrilled to welcome a new baby to the Zoo, but this birth is particularly exciting because the science involved is critical to saving endangered animals,” added 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.”
Today there are only 2,500 Indian rhinos remaining in the wild, and only 59 living in captivity. This birth news of this rhino at the Buffalo Zoo offers hope for endangered species all over the world. In an age when there is often little hope for rapidly declining populations of various species, this is certainly a silver lining that could lead to a world of possibilities.
Photos taken by Kelly Brown – Registrar, Buffalo Zoo