It’s official! A Sumatran rhino living at a sanctuary in Indonesia is pregnant, sparking new hope for this critically endangered species. The announcement, made yesterday by the International Rhino Foundation, added special significance to World Rhino Day, an event aimed at spreading awareness and increasing global support for the world’s five remaining rhino species.

The new calf, due to be born sometime in May next year, will join five others at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS), a 250-acre complex situated in Indonesia’s Way Kambas National Park. Here the newborn will receive state-of-the-art veterinary care and will become a vital addition to the sanctuary's carefully managed breeding and research programme. Captive births are rare for Sumatran rhinos and the new baby will be one of just five to be born in captivity.

The calf's mother (named "Ratu") was brought to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in 2005 after she wandered out of the surrounding rainforest. She was bred with "Andalas", a male rhino raised at the Cincinnati Zoo and specially relocated to the sanctuary as Ratu's mate. It was a successful strategy, and a male calf was born in 2012. Ratu is now pregnant with her second baby.

Baby sumatran rhino 2015-09-23
Rhino mom, Ratu, with her first calf, Andatu. Image © International Rhino Foundation

Although Ratu fell pregnant back in January, conservationists waited several months before making the news public. "We just wanted to be sure [the pregnancy] would take before we made an announcement because in early pregnancy any number of things can go wrong," Susie Ellis, director of the International Rhino Foundation, told AFP. The length of a Sumatran rhino pregnancy is around 16 months, so the world can expect to be introduced to the new calf early next year.

The rhinos are among the rarest mammals on earth. Although few poaching incidents have been reported in recent years, demand for Sumatran rhino horn has played a significant role in the decline of the species, and current estimates suggest there are only about 100 of these animals left in small, fragmented habitats in southeast Asia.

The IRF team, along with the Rhino Foundation of Indonesia, are spearheading conservation initiatives to protect existing wild rhinos, while continuing captive breeding efforts to learn more about the species and hopefully boost wild populations in the future.

Top header image: International Rhino Foundation