Earlier this month, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono officially declared 2012 the International Year of the Rhino. And, while there is no official Father’s Day in Indonesia, Andalas the Sumatran rhino would probably choose June 23rd. That’s the day his mate, Ratu, delivered their first calf and the first rhinoceros ever born in captivity in that country.
His name is Andatu and he entered the world under the light of the moon, which is not uncommon for rhinos and other wild creatures. The name Andatu is a combination of both parents’ names. Andalas is an Indonesian word denoting the island of Sumatra, while Ratu means Queen. The baby’s name, which rolls so nicely off the tongue, is also a shortening of the Indonesian term “Anugerah Dari Tuhan” and quite fittingly translates as a “Gift from God”.
About sixty pounds soaking wet – which he was – the young rhino displayed signs of good health right from the start. He eagerly began nursing from his mother in the customized boma (enclosure) that was constructed especially for this event, where both animals will have controlled access to the forest while being monitored 24 hours a day via closed-circuit cameras. Mom will continue to feed on a varied diet of native tropical forest plants and fruits, while baby will suckle milk from her that is apparently lower in solids, proteins and fats than horse, cow or deer milk, but higher in sugar content. Slowly but surely, Andatu will also sample the surrounding vegetation and learn to identify different solid foods, but he won’t be fully weaned from mother’s milk for at least a year.
If Andatu follows in his father’s footsteps, we can expect him to bulk up in short order. Andalas was close to a half-a-ton by the time he turned one, and today he’s nearly double that – a little more than the weight of a Smart Car. Both father and son began life at about twice the weight of the average bicycle, but packaged much more compactly.
Assisting the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary’s veterinarian, Dr. Dedi Candra, with the birth were Australian veterinarian Dr. Benn Bryant of the Taronga Conservation Society and Paul Reinhart, a rhino keeper at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden who has assisted with three other captive Sumatran rhino births before this one. IRF’s executive director, Dr. Susie Ellis, was also on hand for the delivery and took advantage of this rare opportunity to harvest valuable stem cells from the placenta.
Andatu’s birth offers renewed hope for the future of Sumatran rhinos, whose numbers in the wild have dwindled to 200 or less. Managed breeding at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary and other special facilities is an integral component in the global management of this species.