Posts Tagged With: animal babies

Sumatrans: The Forgotten Rhino

Sumatran rhinos are the smallest of the living rhinos, and probably the most unique in appearance. They are covered in hair and most closely resemble their extinct ancestors woolly rhinos.

sumatran range history and current

Borneo and Sumatra are home to the last Sumatrans.

They are the most vocal, and quite agile. Living in jungle conditions, they climb mountains and riverbanks surprisingly easily.

There are less than 150 Sumatrans left in the wild. In captivity there are only 9; and of them,  just two captive females have reproduced in the last 15 years. Doesn’t make for a bright outlook does it?

Sumatrans live in fragmented areas due to deforestation and an ever shrinking habitat. They also face the same peril as their African cousins-poaching.

The plight to save the remaining endangered Sumatran rhinos has grown more urgent following the death of Gelugob. She resided in Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Sabah, Northern Malaysia, and passed away of old age on January 11th.



For 19 years, experts had studied her breeding habits with hopes of her giving birth. She was unable to produce eggs and did not respond to hormone treatments.

Across the world, in Ohio the Cincinnati Zoo is making efforts to save the species  as well. Infamous for a previously successful breeding program with Emi (see previous post: Emi: the World-Famous Sumatran), they are now hoping for success again by breeding resident Sumatran Suci with her brother Harapan.

With intense efforts worldwide, the remaining Sumatrans are being studied, bred and monitored in hopes of keeping the species alive.

Ratu and Andalas son-

Andatu, born in June of 2013 at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia.

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Miracle for Two!

I’m pleased to announce that Thandi, the miraculous poaching survivor, is expecting!

Dr. William Fowlds, who has been part of Thandi’s life since the poaching attempt on her life said,

“I don’t recall such a small value carrying such huge significance for anything in my professional life. Thandi is arguably the single most important rhino alive as I am not aware of any individual animal that has carried the plight of the rhino out to the world to the extent that she has and continues to do. Her story has touched the lives of so many people across the globe and her courage is reflected in our love for her and the species that she represents. The prospects of a successful pregnancy and birth represent the hope of survival. In a crisis which threatens us with despair, that hope, as insignificant as it may seem for some, is what we cling to for dear life.”

If all goes well for this courageous soul, she will have come full circle from birth to almost death, and now delivering a new life into the world to carry on Thandi’s legacy, and hope for all rhino.

closeup Thandi May 2013

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Heart-tugging Tales from the Rhino Orphanage

Guest Blog by: Karen Trendler of THE RHINO ORPHANAGE (via Ayesha Cantor)


 Managing a rhino orphanage means that we have Rhino Monday to Sunday !

 Rhino have a lot more personality and character than most people generally assume. They are inquisitive, playful and even show a sense of humour. As for intelligence, they have it when they need it but don’t waste energy on writing theses or showing off their intellectual prowess. Unlike elephant, rhino ‘don’t do’ the whole emotional angst thing.

 Don’t believe me? Spend a day with these incredible creatures and you will never think of rhino in the same way again.

 Nyani, our prematurely born calf was out on a walk yesterday when we came across a large toktokkie beetling along. Nyani put her lips very gently onto the beetle. The beetle dropped down and kept dead still. She lifted her head and he starting walking again; so she put her lips on him and he stopped  – this was repeated a few times until she got bored and he beetled off happily.  Walks with our rhino tracking dog Duma now involve a shuffle between the two of them over the ball ( and she knows exactly how to wind him up and chase him when his puppy behavior gets too much). Last night she was fascinated by a praying mantis on the wall, hopping and squeaking away in horror when it flittered against her face. Nyani has the pillow issue sorted. As a high risk prem calf we have someone with her 24 hours a day.  There is no ‘my pillow, – your pillow’ , the pillows are all  ‘her’ pillows (and she is very subtle about how she moves in to take full possession).

nyani climbing on bed

Nyani climbing up to pillows.

 We have our black rhino who plays games with the sliding barrier. We slide it open, he slides it closed. This game can go on for as long as he thinks he needs to keep us amused.  He doesn’t want to get out and makes no move to push through the gate, it is simply a game. That prehensile black rhino lip gets up to all kinds of mischief and he will fiddle for hours to remove a cotter pin or latch that we thought was rhino proof and couldn’t be removed.

 Pemba and Muffin, two little bull calves of 5 and 7 months spend hours chasing warthog and guinea fowl, waiting patiently until the prey get close enough and then chasing them round and around the camp. At other times, they will tolerate the hogs and fowl within two inches of their horns and not blink at eye.

 The group of six have a thing for hats – not the conventional kind, the rubber water bowl and trough kind. It is not unusual to walk into the boma to find at least one of them wearing a rubber water trough on its head or horn.  Ntombi, the calf who survived a brutal panga assault knows exactly how to get attention (and milk) at night….she simply bangs the door to her sleeping quarter as hard as she can until room ( or is that boma ) service arrives.


The “Hooligans” Ntombi, Nkwe, and Pemba

The rhino poaching crisis is horrific and our rhino are being subjected to unbelievable levels of cruelty and suffering, But rhino are incredibly tough and are the stoics of the animal world. Not a day goes by that I am not humbled by the ability of these rhino calves to survive incredible trauma and injuries against all odds and just get on with it.  If they can fight this hard to survive ; we have no excuse not to carry on fighting and ensure that this incredible specie is not lost.

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Never Lose Hope

 Ntombi and Thandi- probably shouldn’t be alive. Ntombi was attacked with a machete, trying to protect her mother from poachers.
ntombi before
Thandi was poached and had the horn chopped off her face, with lots of blood loss and damage.

thandi before

But they suffered, healed and  persevered.
Things are bleak. Poaching numbers are soaring, the government wants to put horns on the  Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
Conservation of rhino seems to be one step forward, 20 steps back.
BUT the girls persevere because we’ve helped them, they all need us  now more than ever. We must stay strong, stand together, and keep fighting for them!!


Here is Thandi now-in the midst of continued plastic surgery; skin grafts over her torn away horn. She lives as normally as possible.

thandi after
And here is little Ntombi-carefree and joyful just being a baby the video and let it lift your heart and remind you what we fight for…

NTOMBI:  at the Rhino Orphanage

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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How to Make a Baby Rhino

Breeding programs are essential for endangered species. But how does this happen with limited animals in a captive environment? Sometimes they can be matched with a suitable mate, but for rhinos who are aggressive with mating, often natural breeding is not an option, and artificial insemination is used.

First the rhinos are “matched”. Through the SSP (Species Survival Program), captive rhinos, as well as other endangered sspspecies,  across the country are kept in a main database. Through this program, rhinos are carefully paired for breeding, based on genetic diversity and zoo placements (i.e. space, demographics, etc).

Now the female is selected as a prospective mom, it’s time to figure out when the best time is to attempt insemination. The keepers bring dung samples to the lab; through the feces hormones can be analyzed. It can target whether the rhino is ready for breeding, if she has a regular cycle, and when her optimum time for ovulation is. This is done repeatedly  for many months.rhino AI 2

The male is anesthetized and the semen is collected. The sperm is analyzed under a microscope to be sure it is healthy.

The female is then anesthetized. Special 3D ultrasound system is used to monitor her reproductive system and using a probe, the semen is inserted. The procedure is complete and the rhinos are awakened.

For the next few weeks, the female’s hormone levels continue to be monitored to check for pregnancy. If successful, in 16 months there will be a baby rhino.

rhino cryobio bank

Cincinnati Zoo is home to one of the highly valued rhino sperm banks.

The process of artificial insemination with rhino is a fairly new process; it began in Hungary in 2006. Scientists and conservationists have come a long way. Sperm, and recently entire embryos, are able to be frozen and stored. Perhaps most exciting, is the production of  stem cells from the Northern White Rhino. Is cloning in the near future? With only four left in the entire world, is this the next step after their inevitable extinction?

baby rh sticking tongue out

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Raja: Hostage to the Palm Oil Industry

baby raja

Straining against his chains, bellowing helplessly for his mother, baby Raja is held captive. He is alone, scared and hungry. The villagers in this Sumatran village are holding him for ransom. His crime: he and his family were searching for food in a deforested area, trespassing on the crops.


In what is becoming an all too familiar scenario, demands are soaring for palm oil, more forests are being decimated for palm plantations, and the animals’ food and homes are destroyed leaving them displaced and desperate.

Raja’s family, along with other homeless elephants were foraging for food, trying to survive. He was captured and brought into the village, held for weeks in an attempt to bargain with the government for compensation for their lost crops.

One man went so far as to jump on the baby’s back in an attempt to”ride” him, saying the elephant should be trained to do tricks to “earn” his money back.

Various groups tried to get veterinary care to the baby, and fought for his release but sadly Raja died. The stress and inadequate diet were too much for the little elephant.

In the end, it’s not just a matter of saving the elephants (and the Tigers, Rhino and Orangutans in the forests of Asia), but also of saving the people. Deforestation has disastrous effects on the soil, the climate and ultimately the villages.


Palm oil is used in 50% of consumer products, but is NOT a necessary ingredient.  Your ice-cream, margarine, shampoo, lipstick,  and some breakfast cereals all contain palm oil. Please read labels and avoid palm products. For more information on palm oil or other names it goes by please go to : Say No to Palm Oil  or the previous post There’s Orangutan Blood in my Kitchen.

Categories: Rhino Spotlight | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Urgent! Tragedy Strikes Rhino Orphanage

29 Saturday June- This just in from the Rhino Orphanage:

Rhino Mike butchered

A young rhino bought to act as a surrogate parent to orphaned babies has been shot and killed and his horn removed while a young female has been shot and wounded.
The five-year-old bull white rhino named Mike was killed at Legend Golf & Safari Resort in Limpopo while his fellow free-ranging surrogate parent Nana is being treated for gunshot wounds. Her condition is being assessed by specialists.
The resort is also home to The Rhino Orphanage, a centre which forms a vital part of the EWT Rhino Response Strategy, which was not breached or attacked.
Mike was donated by suppliers to health company Netcare to help raise orphans of the war being waged on South Africa’s rhino population.rhino with karen at orphan
The resort and The Rhino Orphanage were on a full security alert and now ADDITIONAL measures are being taken to protect the orphans and the staff on site.
A specialist emergency armed response team has been deployed and will remain at the site while whatever ADDITIONAL security measures deemed necessary are implemented.
Karen Trendler coordinates the Rhino Response Strategy and manages The Rhino Orphanage and says while staff are shocked and horrified, Mike’s death has acted as an inspiration to fight the battle even more vigorously. And she said everything possible is being done to help Nana.
She said: “We were all so fond of Mike and his death is a horrific tragedy. But we will not bow to this slaughter and have taken yet more action to try with all our power to protect the little ones and the staff who do such amazing work caring for them.rhino with bottle
“The orphans are all safe and well as are the staff and The Orphanage was not breached. People must realise that this is a real war where the bad guys will do all they can in the name of greed and money. No animal is 100% safe but people should know we are doing everything in our power to preserve and protect the orphans. And the medical teams treating Nana are as good as it gets.”
The specialist emergency armed response team now stationed at the resort have access to air support in the form of the resort helicopter which has been made available for daily patrol flights and specialist anti-poaching operations.
This has been done in the past but operations have been intensified at the direction of Legend Lodges Hotels & Resort CEO Peet Cilliers will the full support of Managing Director Mart Cilliers.
Mr Cilliers said: “We are all horrified at this barbaric act and Mart and myself have put the full resource of the resort at the disposal of the experts who are doing an amazing job in attempting to battle the poachers and help the orphans. Our immediate response includes use of the helicopter and a variety of other measures. Like Karen and her team we are determined that we will not be shaken from our course of rehabilitating and saving orphaned rhinos despite this tragic incident.”
Meanwhile, specialist investigators are probing how the poachers attacked the rhino and are assisting the police and other agencies.
Karen Trendler said Mike’s death shows the scale of the problem and the need for international intervention. She said: “We know this horrific slaughter is funding international terrorism – that’s how serious this is. But our work will continue to try and save the species.
“The numbers are shocking and The Rhino Orphanage is still gearing up for an influx of the victims of this tragedy. Calves are the neglected victims – orphaned, traumatised and often frequently injured they need intensive and specialised care. Calves remain with the mothers for three years and sometimes more – we need to treat the trauma and injuries and provide the maternal care that has been brutally denied by the poachers. The calves need amazing amounts of dedicated, specialist care – and that’s why we created The Rhino Orphanage.
“We have specially trained carers, specialist facilities, and some amazing supporters who make our work possible. Now more than ever we are working with our friends to continue what we started.”
The orphanage has specialist facilities to care for these often extremely young and badly injured creatures, giving the babies the very best chance of one day returning to the wild where they belong.
It is further supported by a range of partners including FNB Investment Products, New Holland, Lafarge and others.

This comes after the good news of the orphanage finally receiving a rhino ambulance to help with transporting and treating the orphaned calves from the point of location where the mothers are poached.rhino amb

Somehow this attack seems so much more personal and viscious, the poachers invading the refuge where the babies only chance of survival lies.

If any of you are able to make a donation, now would be a very good time.

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Happy Birthday Andatu

The Sumatran Rhino is critically endangered, with only 130-190 individuals surviving. Their final stronghold exists in three Sumatran National Parks, with help from the International Rhino Foundation.

The birth of a new Sumatran Rhino is a very big deal. It provides hope, and confidence in the survival of the species. One year ago, a calf named Andatu did just that. Shortly after midnight on June 23, he was welcomed into the world at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Indonesia.

andatu and mom

The story of Andatu starts with his grandmother Emi (see previous post  Emi was the beginning of the intensive conservation efforts made at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio. In 2001, she gave birth to Andalas, the father of Andatu . This was the first birth of a Sumatran in a zoo in 112 years!

In 2007 Andalas was shipped to the SRS in Indonesia where he was introduced to three potential mates. He chose Ratu, and the rest is history. Although one rhino won’t bring back the species, it’s a start. It shows that international collaboration, science, and diligence pay off.

Video of Andatu’s mud bath at a few days old:


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Baby Boom?

Breeding rhinos in captivity has been a challenge to say the least. With the demise of the rhino in the wild, the role of zoos and sanctuaries has become primarily conservation, i.e breeding.  But scientists may now have the solution: dung.

New scientific methodology allows researchers to study individuals’ genetics as well as their reproductive cycles from the hormones in the dung.  This allows them to more accurately pinpoint the best times to breed them.

At the Chester Zoo in the UK, the zoo had gone 10 years without a rhino birth until beginning the research. Now they boast 4 births in the last 4 years; a phenomenal feat!chester zoo rhino4

Although this success comes from the unglamorous job of analyzing and weighing dung, day in and day out, it seems it has paid off tenfold. Dr. Sue Walker, from the Black Rhino Endocrinology Program, says “These populations are vital as an insurance policy against further declines in the wild, and the more successful the population, both in terms of growth rates and maintaining the genetic diversity by making sure all individuals breed, the better that insurance policy can be.”

The news could not have come at a more pivotal time, with 394 rhino already poached in 2013, and the projection at over 800 when the year is up. The techniques are being shared and applied at zoos throughout the world.

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