When is it Time for a Rhino to Leave its Nest?

Baby Andatu at four days old with mother Ratu at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary

Baby Andatu at four days old with mother Ratu at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary

Andatu, the first Sumatran rhino ever born in captivity in Indonesia, turned one year of age on June 22nd.  Weighing about 60 lbs at birth, he was just shy of 800 lbs on his first birthday and has become difficult to distinguish from his mother, Ratu, when the two stand side by side. The two rhinos are still relatively inseparable, which would probably be the case if Andatu had been born and raised in the tropical forests that surround his natural enclosure at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park.  However, at some point he will eventually leave the security of his mother’s side and establish a territory of his own. At exactly what age that event occurs for wild Sumatran rhinos is largely unknown, as this critically endangered species has been nearly impossible to study in its natural habitat.

Andatu at one year of age is nearly as large as his mother

Andatu at one year of age is nearly as large as his mother

What we do know, however, is that the three Sumatran rhino calves born at the Cincinnati Zoo – Andalas, Suci and Harapan – were weaned from their mother before they reached 1.5 years of age without any problem. We also know that staff at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary won’t attempt to breed Andalas and Ratu again until Andatu has moved out.  It would be far too dangerous to attempt a breeding with him being close by, but breeding is an imperative if the species is to survive.  So plans now are in motion to separate mother and calf, and release Andatu into a small, not-to-distant chunk of forest that he will call his own.  Keepers and veterinary staff at the Sanctuary will observe Ratu and Andatu very closely throughout the process, watchful for signs of separation anxiety, but trusting that nature will take its course.

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