At 12:40 am on Saturday, June 23, 2012, Ratu, one of the three adult female rhinos at Indonesia’s Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, gave birth to a 60-lb male calf. Not only was this Ratu’s first baby, but it was the first Sumatran rhino ever born in captivity in Indonesia and only the fifth ever born in captivity worldwide.
“This is a historic birth because Sumatran rhinos are on the brink of extinction,” said Novianto Bambang, director of biodiversity conservation at Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry. Biologists estimate that only 150 to 200 individuals survive in Indonesia and Sabah, Malaysia.
The baby was born after a 16-month gestation period, which is about average for African and Asian rhino species. Indonesian veterinarian, Dr. Dedi Candra, managed Ratu’s pregnancy on a daily basis, with help from Dr. Terri Roth of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, which has bred more Sumatran rhinos in captivity than any other institution. The baby’s father, Andalas, in fact, was born there in 2001. After spending several years at the Los Angeles Zoo, Andalas was sent to Indonesia with hopes that he would breed Ratu and the other female rhinos in residence.
The new baby was born in an enclosure (boma) constructed especially for this event, but he and his mother have access to a small forest garden as well. Both remain under 24-hour video surveillance for health and safety reasons, and also have the benefit of visiting rhino specialists from Australia and the United States, who will remain at the sanctuary for the next few weeks.
Ratu has handled the long pregnancy extremely well and is now proving to be an attentive, even-tempered mother. Her keepers and veterinarians will keep a close eye on mother and baby in the months ahead, gathering critical information about maternal care and infant development, which is very sparse for this critically endangered species.
UPDATE: The baby's name is Andatu. A combination of his dad’s, Andalas, and Ratu, but it also means “Gift from God”.
UPDATE: June 23, 2013: Weighing about 60 lbs at birth, he was just shy of 800 lbs on his first birthday and has become difficult to distinguish from his mother, Ratu, when the two stand side by side.