Hellabrunn Zoo celebrates rare birth of rhinoceros

Mission accomplished! On Monday morning, 31 August, mama rhinoceros Rapti gave birth to a healthy baby rhino bull. The birth represents the first Indian rhino baby to be born in Europe in 2015.

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn

9:01 am, 31 August, Hellabrunn Zoo: With a gestation period of 492 days, the 26-year-old female Indian rhinoceros required a little more time than usual, but this appears to have only resulted in a much finer male calf than expected. After a quick and easy birth, the mother and her calf are now doing well. The small rhinoceros bull weighs an estimated 60 kg. He made his first steps about 50 minutes after birth, and after two and a half hours was able to drink for the first time from his mother.

"Rapti is a wonderful mother who is very caring and easy-going with her baby rhino," explains zoo director Rasem Baban. "We will now give the newborn calf as much time as he needs to get used to his new environment. The mother and child will therefore not be on view for visitors for the next few days." Rapti's previous two births were fraught with complications: In September 2012, Rapti previously gave birth to a male calf, but he died three days later of an infection probably contracted in the womb. Despite a detailed pathological examination, the exact cause of death could not be determined. And ten years ago, during her very first pregnancy she suffered a stillbirth. In general, the chances of survival for first-born rhinos are quite slim, both in zoos and in the wild.

"We are delighted that Hellabrunn is making an important contribution to conservation with the breeding of baby rhinoceros," says Chairman and Mayor Christine Strobl, noting the importance of the birth for the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP). There are currently only about 2,750 rhinoceroses surviving in the wild, comprising small groups of animals living in separate wildlife sanctuaries. In addition to habitat loss, the rhino population has been brought to close extinction by hunting. The rhino horn - in the powdered form - is highly valued in traditional Asian medicine, even though it has no proven medical benefit, since the horn mostly consists of keratin, which is also found in human fingernails and hair. The threat makes conservation breeding in zoos all the more important. There are only five zoos in Germany that keep Indian rhinoceroses. Rapti, who was born in Nepal, is therefore particularly important for the gene pool of Indian rhinoceroses living in zoos.

About the Indian rhinoceroses at Hellabrunn Zoo
The rhinoceroses Niko and Rapti have known each other since 1990. In August 1989, Rapti travelled from her native Nepal to Munich. Niko (born on 27.11.1988) arrived at Hellabrunn shortly after from Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart.

General information about Indian Rhinoceros
With a shoulder height of up to 185 cm and weighing more than 2,000 kg, the Indian rhinoceros is the largest of the three species of Asian rhinoceroses. Unlike its two African relatives and the Sumatran rhinoceros, it has only one nasal horn (similar to the Javan rhinoceros), which can grow up to 20 cm. Indian rhinoceroses tend to rub their horn on the ground or on stones, often resulting in the horn being worn down to a thick knob.

Today its natural habitat is confined to a few areas in Bhutan, southern Nepal, the Terai Arc Landscape and seven refuges in the two Indian states of West Bengal and Assam.