The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) and the Montgomery Zoo, in Montgomery, Ala., announced the birth of a male Indian rhino calf produced by artificial insemination (AI). This is the first known calf, of any rhino species in the U.S., to be produced by AI and be born and thrive in captivity.
In February 2012, CREW’s Reproductive Physiologist, Dr. Monica Stoops worked in partnership with Montgomery Zoo’s staff to perform a standing sedation AI procedure, inseminating Jeta, the Montgomery Zoo’s 12-year-old female, who is on an extended breeding loan from the San Diego Zoo Global, with frozen-thawed semen from the resident male rhino, Himal. Dr. Stoops collected Himal’s sperm in 2004 and stored it at -320°F in CREW’s CryoBioBank in Cincinnati for eight years before it was brought to Alabama, thawed, and used in the AI procedure. The Montgomery Zoo staff monitored Jeta’s pregnancy over the 15-16 month gestation period and on June 5, 2013 she gave birth to a healthy calf. This is the second calf born to Jeta at the Montgomery Zoo and it weighs approximately 90 pounds.
“Everyone at the Cincinnati Zoo and the scientists at CREW are incredibly excited to watch this calf grow up,” said Dr. Stoops. “The scientific significance of the birth and the successful upbringing by Jeta are a lifetime of work in the making.”
This is a significant birth and scientific achievement for the Montgomery Zoo and CREW since the Indian rhino is an endangered species. Jeta’s calf demonstrates using AI science, developed by CREW’s Dr. Stoops, as a repeatable and valuable tool to help manage the captive Indian rhino population. With only 60 Indian rhinos in captivity in North America and approximately 2,500 remaining in the wild, successful breeding between rhino pairs is important to maintain the genetic diversity necessary to keep a population healthy and self-sustaining. Unfortunately, natural breeding attempts in captive Indian rhinos frequently result in severe aggression between the male and female. Because of this behavioral incompatibility, genetic management of the Indian rhino is a challenge. Artificial insemination can be used to improve the genetic health of captive Indian rhinos by infusing genes from non- or under-represented rhinos.