Hellabrunn Zoo expects birth of rhino this summer

The Indian rhino Rapti is expected to give birth to a calf in August. The pregnancy is without complications.

Copyright Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

Niko and Rapti are a well-suited, harmonious couple. The two rhinos have known each other since 1990. At the time, Rapti, born in August 1989, travelled from her native home in Nepal to Munich. She was followed shortly after by the arrival of Niko (born 11.27.1988) from Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart. The pair are now expecting a baby.

"Rapti is genetically a very important Indian rhino as she came to us directly from the Nepalese wild. The species is endangered, which makes the birth in a zoo particularly important for conservation. We now hope that all goes well with Rapti's pregnancy and look forward to the birth of a baby rhino at Hellabrunn Zoo in summer," says zoo director Rasem Baban. The gestation period for rhinos is 460 - 490 days, i.e. about 16 months.  Hellabrunn's rhino baby is expected to arrive in mid to late August 2015.

Since the beginning of her pregnancy, Rapti's weight has increased by approximately 120 kg, bringing her current weight on the scale to 1,975 kg. Prior to her pregnancy, she underwent two gynaecological examinations - in December 2013 and April 2014 - under anaesthesia. After successfully mating, which in the case of Rapti and Niko took place on the night of 25 - 26 April 2014, rhinos are not usually placed under anaesthesia, as this could jeopardise the pregnancy. The expectant mother is now being regularly examined by the veterinarians at Hellabrunn Zoo. Her pregnancy is without complications.

Rapti's previous pregnancies have not been as fortunate: On 22 September 2012, after 16 months gestation period, Rapti gave birth to a small rhino bull. The 50 kg baby appeared healthy after birth, but died 3 days later of an infection that he had probably contracted in the womb. Despite a detailed pathological examination, the cause could not be determined. And ten years ago, during her very first pregnancy she had a stillbirth. Then, as a first-time mother-to-be, the chances of survival were quite slim. The European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) recommends that Rapti (25 years) and Niko (26 years) produce more offspring for the Indian rhinoceros under threat in the wild.

About the 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 Asian rhino species. Unlike its two African relatives and the Sumatran rhino, it has only one nasal horn, which can grow up to 20 cm.??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. Approximately 2,750 rhinos live in the wild. In addition to habitat loss, the rhino population has been brought to close extinction by hunting. The rhino horn is a valuable commodity - the powdered form used in traditional Asian medicine fetches prices as high as the price of gold, even though it has no proven medical benefit.