AboutZoos, Since 2008


First Indian rhino calf born after insem­i­na­tion with ten year old semen

pub­lished 23 June 2014 | mod­i­fied 23 June 2014

Indian Rhino-calf-MonicaThe Cincin­nati Zoo & Botan­i­cal Garden’s Cen­ter for Con­ser­va­tion & Research of Endan­gered Wildlife (CREW) and the Buf­falo Zoo, in Buf­falo, New York, are excited to announce the birth of a female Indian rhino calf pro­duced by arti­fi­cial insem­i­na­tion (AI), and born on June 5. 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.

The father, “Jimmy,” died at the Cincin­nati Zoo in 2004 and was dead for a decade before becom­ing a father for the very first time! Over the course of those ten years, Jimmy’s sperm was stored at –196°C in CREW’s Cry­oBioBank™ in Cincin­nati, before it was taken to Buf­falo, thawed and used in the AI.

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
Dr. Mon­ica Stoops, Repro­duc­tive Phys­i­ol­o­gist, Cincin­nati Zoo’s CREW »

“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) organ­i­sa­tions are mak­ing fun­da­men­tal con­tri­bu­tions to rhino con­ser­va­tion,” said Dr. Stoops.

“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 Indian rhi­noc­eros (Rhi­noc­eros uni­cor­nis) is listed as Vul­ner­a­ble by the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species.

“Tashi and the calf are doing well, and are spend­ing this time bond­ing indoors,” said Hauser. “Over the next few weeks rhino keep­ers will con­tinue to mon­i­tor their time together and as the calf gets stronger and more con­fi­dent we will make the announce­ment on their offi­cial pub­lic debut.”

The Buf­falo Zoo staff mon­i­tored Tashi’s preg­nancy over the 1516 month ges­ta­tion period and at 3:30 p.m., on June 5, she gave birth to a healthy female calf, weigh­ing 65 kilo­grams. Through ultra­sound tech­nol­ogy Dr. Stoops and keeper, Joe Hauser, were also able to suc­cess­fully pre­dict the calf was female.

“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.”

Thane May­nard, direc­tor of Cincin­nati Zoo tells about spe­cial rhino calf Mon­ica:

(Source: The Cin­cein­nati Zoo & Botan­i­cal Gar­den YouTube channel)

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 organ­i­sa­tions and we are hon­oured to play a crit­i­cal role.”

(Source: Cincin­nati Zoo & Botan­i­cal Gar­den media release, 12.06.2014)

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