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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : January 2001 : Cincinnati Zoo's Sumatran rhino pregnant again

Cincinnati Zoo's Sumatran rhino pregnant again

The Associated Press State & Local Wire
January 30, 2001

CINCINNATI - Emi, the Cincinnati Zoo's Sumatran rhinoceros, is pregnant and zoo keepers think after five miscarriages she will carry this baby full term.

It would be the first Sumatran bred and born in captivity since 1889, in Calcutta. There are only 16 in captivity and fewer than 300 in the wild, the zoo said.

Emi is pregnant for the sixth time in less than three years but she has never carried a calf this long - 248 days, as of Monday - into a pregnancy expected to last 16 months.

Scientists suspect that hormone supplements may have increased her chances of giving birth in September.

Emi, on loan from the Los Angeles Zoo, was mated with the zoo's male Sumatran rhino, Ipuh, who came to the zoo in 1991.

The birth of a 50- to 70-pound rhino calf would be the most important animal birth in a zoo in 100 years, said Dr. Terri Roth, director of the zoo's Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife.

Emi's longest previous pregnancy lasted three months, Roth said. The others lasted 30 to 60 days.

"I don't know for certain, and we probably never will, but after she lost five of them we decided we needed to do something different," Roth said. "What we did this time was put her on a hormone supplement. I can detect pregnancy in her on Day 16 after breeding. As soon as the pregnancy was detected, we put her on a daily oral progesterone.

"Progesterone in many animals, certainly in rhinos, is elevated during pregnancy. It's the primary hormone that maintains the pregnancy. We don't know for a fact that her levels were too low before. We don't know what levels are supposed to be in a Sumatran rhino. But we thought we could try it. It wouldn't cause any harm."

Emi gets a 16-milliliter dose squirted onto a piece of bread.

"We pop the bread in her mouth and she eats it right down," Roth said.

The zoo staff has pioneered the use of ultrasound and blood tests to predict when Emi is fertile. That is vital because the breeding of rhinos is so tricky.

Males and females try to hurt each other except during mating periods, and even then can be finicky.

"If we put them together on a day she's receptive, they'll breed once," Roth said. "If they're put back together later that day, they fight. And if you're a day early, there's a crazy chase around the enclosure."




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