LAMPUNG, Indonesia, June 22, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The International Rhino Foundation (IRF) is anticipating the birth of a Sumatran rhino at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Indonesia's Way Kambas National Park. This birth is one of the most significant advances of the conservation effort for Sumatran rhinos. With fewer than 200 Sumatran rhinos remaining in Indonesia and Malaysia, the birth is being anticipated globally.
The rhino calf is expected to be born sometime within the next few weeks, and the 12-year-old mother, Ratu, is being monitored by her veterinarian, keepers and rhino experts from several continents.
Andalas, the father, was brought to the SRS from the U.S. several years ago in the hopes that he would one day breed with one or more of the three females at the SRS.
"Ratu's pregnancy is a significant milestone in our efforts to conserve the Sumatran rhino population and represents a truly global effort," said Dr. Susie Ellis, executive director of IRF.
Dr. Dedi Candra, head veterinarian at the SRS, is monitoring Ratu's pregnancy by weighing her weekly and conducting regular ultrasound exams, using methods developed by the Cincinnati Zoo's Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife.
Immediately after the birth, Ellis will harvest placental cells that may be used to generate stem cells. Stem cells have the potential of being useful for many purposes, from curing diseases to helping promote reproduction. Fibroblast cells will be removed from the placenta and then frozen for future stem cell work. Fibroblasts are used to create stem cells because they are easy to extract and culture in the lab. These cells will remain stored in Indonesia.
"This is yet another way in which this birth can contribute new knowledge and tools potentially important to sustaining the future of this critically endangered species," Ellis said.
The Sumatran rhino is seriously threatened by the continuing loss of its tropical forest habitat and hunting pressure from poachers, who kill rhinos for their valuable horns. Every pregnancy is a vital step toward maintaining the survival of the species, which runs the risk of extinction by the end of this century. The SRS opened in 1998 as a partnership with the Rhino Foundation of Indonesia and Way Kambas National Park, Indonesia Ministry of Forestry.
SOURCE International Rhino Foundation