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Sumatran rhino baby born

June 23, 2012

An endangered Sumatran rhinoceros has given birth to a healthy male calf in an Indonesian sanctuary. It is the first such rhino to be born in captivity in the Southeast Asian nation.

Sumatran Rhinoceroses at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Image: cc-by-sa-Charles W. Hardin

After two miscarriages and a 16-month-long pregnancy, the female Sumatran rhino named Ratu gave birth to a male calf just after midnight local time on Saturday at a sanctuary at the Way Kambas National Park. It lies at the southern tip of Sumatra island.

"Both the mother and the baby are all very well," conservationist Widodo Ramono told the news agency AFP.

A foreign ministry spokesperson quoted by AFP said the calf is the first rhino born in captivity in Indonesia.

"We are very grateful that the delivery process went smoothly and naturally … It's really a big present for the Sumatran rhino breeding efforts as we know that this is a very rare species which have some difficulties in their reproduction," the spokesman said.

Ratu's offspring is only the fifth Sumatran rhino ever to be born in captivity in more than 120 years. The first one was born at a zoo in Kolkata in 1889. The other three were born at the Cincinnati Zoo in the United States.

The father, Andalas, was among those born in the US. He was born in 2001 and sent to Indonesia in 2007 for the breeding program.

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Hope on the brink

"This is a historic birth because Sumatran rhinos are on the brink of extinction," director of biodiversity conservation at the Indonesian Forestry Ministry told the Associated Press.

Only about 200 Sumatran rhinos are still thought to live in the wild in Indonesia and Malaysia. Another 10 live in captivity. Their numbers have plummeted in recent years, with an estimated 70 percent being lost since 1985, mainly due to poaching and destruction of their tropical habitat.

Rhinos are hunted for their horns, which are said in Asia to have medicinal value. Two million hectares of forest are lost every year in Indonesia, according to environmentalists.

sb/ipj (AP, AFP)