Thursday, February 16, 2012

New hope as Sumatran rhino Ratu falls pregnant again

PREGNANT: Ratu, the Sumatran rhino. Picture: IRF

Two previous miscarriages
February 2012: Scientists around the world are following the pregnancy of a Sumatran rhino, which offers a glimmer of hope for the endangered species. Two years ago, Wildlife Extra reported that Ratu, a Sumatran rhino in Indonesia's Kambas National Park, was pregnant, only to have to report on her miscarriage just a month later.
But now she is pregnant again, and she has just completed the 11th month of her pregnancy. The pregnancy will probably last a further four to five month.
Second pregnancy lasted less than a monthIn February 2010, Ratu's first pregnancy was diagnosed but she miscarried after two months. Her second pregnancy did not even last a month. A hormone supplement was prescribed when she became pregnant this third time. 

Ratu is one of four resident rhinos at the 250-acre Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, which was established in the late 1990s by the International Rhino Foundation, the Rhino Foundation of Indonesia and Indonesia 's Ministry of Forestry. Two other females of breeding age, Rosa and Bina, are also maintained at the sanctuary. The young male, Andalas, who bred Ratu in early March 2011 is located at the sanctuary as well. 

Hormone supplement may help Ratu go to termRatu is a wild Sumatran rhino who came into contact with villagers on the border of Way Kambas National Park and was rescued. Andalas is one of three Sumatran rhinos born and raised at the Cincinnati Zoo - the first of his species born in captivity in over a century.
In 2007, he was sent to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary with hopes that he would eventually sire calves from one or more of the females. 

The same hormone supplement Ratu is prescribed was provided to Andalas's mother when she was pregnant with him because she had also experienced early pregnancy loss. The hormone supplement is given orally every day and will be withdrawn slowly prior to the expected delivery date. 

Dr Dedi Candra, based at the Sanctuary, has been monitoring Ratu's pregnancy by weighing her weekly and conducting regular ultrasound exams. Ratu has been allowed almost constant access to her large forested enclosure where she can browse on natural plants and wallow in the mud.

No more than 200 Sumatran rhinos leftThe Sumatran rhino is one of the world's most critically endangered species, numbering no more than 200 individuals in Indonesia and Malaysia. The species is seriously threatened by the continuing loss of its tropical forest habitat and hunting pressure from poachers, who kill rhinos for their valuable horns. Pressure is so great, the species runs the risk of going extinct by the end of this century. 

‘We've got fingers crossed that everything will continue to go well and that Ratu will deliver a healthy baby sometime in late spring or early summer.
'This is truly a dedicated team effort, not just with regard to managing a critical pregnancy, but also in terms of the round-the-clock effort to protect Indonesia's last remaining wild Sumatran rhinos,' Dr Susie Ellis, executive director of the International Rhino Foundation said.

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