Sumatran rhinos are one of the most endangered species on the planet, with a total of less than 100 total members of the species still surviving. That’s why this story is all the more amazing. In May of 2016, the International Rhino Foundation announced the birth of a brand new female calf that was birthed by one of their Sumatran rhinos. The mother rhino was named Ratu, and she is responsible for the only two calves born into the species in more than 128 years.
The Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary is located in Indonesia, which was the original home of the mother rhino, Ratu. She has lived at the sanctuary for years, and she made waves in 2012 when she gave birth to a son, Andatu. At the time, the male calf was the first of his kind to be born in over a century. The birth of two new calves, one male and one female, is a great sign for the species. Their numbers have been drastically falling for years, and scientists believe they may be the most endangered large mammal in existence.
Recently, the Sumatran rhino was declared extinct within the confines of Malaysia, one of their long-time natural habitats. Even with the birth of these two new calves in a relatively short time period, the species is still in extreme danger. Each calf literally increased the world population of these rhinos by one percent. The species is far from being saved, but this is a step in the right direction.
The mother rhino was 14 years old when she gave birth to the second calf. There were no complications during the birth, and both the mother and daughter are healthy. Since her first calf, Andatu, is so young, the mother now has two infants to watch after, even though Andatu is nearing independence. Many experts believe Ratu might have already released Andatu to the wild if they weren’t in captivity. The siblings won’t spend much time together, however, since the creatures are solitary in the wild. The Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary follows their natural lifecycle as closely as possible in order to keep the animals happy.
Before Ratu gave birth to her first calf in 2012, she was one of the most difficult rhinos to work with at the sanctuary. She was reportedly very feisty and wouldn’t do anything the staff wanted her to. It wasn’t until her first calf that she calmed down, and she fell into the role of mother right away with the second calf. Her keepers were even able to enter her pin and approach her, which they had never been able to safely do before. Her attentiveness as a mother keeps her docile yet focused.
The dwindling numbers of natural populations of Sumatran rhinos is in part due to poaching and in part due to the remaining populations being too widespread for mating to occur at fast enough rates for recovery. A lot of that is attributed to their natural environment being destroyed by agriculture, mining, and deforestation. This effectively cuts off the tiny populations from each other, so no new pairings can occur.
There have been efforts by the International Rhino Foundation to build protected zones where rhinos can live and breed in peace. There is also a lot of effort being poured into the captive breeding program, which helped Ratu sire her two calves. While these calves are just a drop in the bucket, they will hopefully continue to thrive and eventually spawn a new generation of rhinos themselves. Stories like these show that there are people out there interested in protecting the world and all its amazing creatures.