December 6, 2007: It is late in the day at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Southeast Sumatra and the afternoon rains have just stopped long enough to allow us to mix two of the center’s rare rhinos for breeding purposes. Torgamba, the sanctuary’s oldest male, will be introduced to Ratu, a young female that was relocated to the sanctuary almost 2 years ago when she was pushed out of her rainforest home by the illegal activities of local people. The rainforests are protected inside the National Park, but enforcement is problematic.
Torgamba and Ratu see each other and give a few short snorts…..rhino love talk! No fighting or mad running about this time (aggression is common in Sumatran rhinos even during courtship) as the pair gets busy. Torgamba pushes Ratu and Ratu pushes Torgamba. It is a big game of cat and mouse as each rhino tries to make the other one run away. Finally 4 hours later the pair finally mate. It is a long ordeal in rhinos, Torgamba breeds with Ratu for 40 minutes this evening.
But the work does not end here. The SRS keeper and veterinary staff are vigilant in trying to collect a sample to look for sperm. Torgamba has a history of not producing either sperm or offspring. We hope things will be different tonight. We find nothing. Still, we will examine Ratu by ultrasound again in 2 days to confirm ovulation and then check for pregnancy in about 2 weeks time.
Today we celebrate another opportunity and hope for a Christmas baby!
Dr. Robin Radcliffe, Rhino Conservation Medicine Program
Dr. Andriansyah, SRS Staff Veterinarian
The Rhino Conservation Medicine Program is housed at Cornell University, and led by Dr. Robin Radcliffe, DVM/DACZM. Dr. Radcliffe is one of the few veterinarians in the world certified by the American College of Zoological Medicine with a specialty in wildlife. Dr. Radcliffe teaches at the veterinary school at Cornell and oversees the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park, Indonesia.
IRF needs your help to continue providing veterinary support for rhino conservation efforts around the world. Visit our website to learn more about how you can help us protect rhinos.