The Buffalo Zoo is celebrating the birth of a female Indian rhino calf produced by artificial insemination.
The baby rhino, weighing in at 144 pounds, was born to mother Tashi on June 5 at the Buffalo Zoo. She 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 Buffalo Zoo's head rhino keeper, Joe Hauser, and veterinarian, Dr. Kurt Volle, worked closely with the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden's Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife to plan and execute the successful AI procedure. The CREW team also assisted with monitoring and caring for Tashi during her 16-month gestation.
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 CREW for its expertise.
"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."
The calf's father, Jimmy, died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2004 and was dead for nearly a decade before the AI procedure took place. Over the course of those nine 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.
"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," Hauser said "She has spent countless hours spearheading 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."
Zoo officials said the successful birth demonstrates AI science is a repeatable and valuable tool to help manage the captive Indian rhino population. They added that, 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.
Dr. Donna Fernandes, president of the Buffalo Zoo, said, "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. This type of professional collaboration among AZA Zoos is vital to the important work we do as conservation organizations."
The science behind the successful birth could be a boon to thousands of species across the globe that face extinction from habitat loss, poaching, and population fragmentation.
Mother and calf are both healthy and doing well. They will remain off exhibit for the public until rhino keepers are confident little Monica can safely navigate the terrain of the zoo's rhino exhibit.
The Buffalo Zoo is located at 300 Parkside Ave.