Rhino Calf Conceived by Artificial Insemination Due Soon
We’re on the verge of a major milestone in rhino conservation.
Any day now, Victoria will give birth to her calf, which was conceived by artificial insemination (AI). AI is a form of assisted conception performed by inserting sperm into a female’s uterus. Worldwide, the procedure has rarely been attempted in rhinos, and only a few births have ever resulted from it.
Victoria receives world-class prenatal and general health care. During her 16-month pregnancy, both she and her baby have been monitored by a talented team of animal keepers, veterinarians, and experts from around the world. She and her calf have been healthy all along without complications. Victoria has even remained playful with her rhino roommates, trying to involve them in games of chase even when they prefer to nap.
Before the Big Day
More recently, keepers and veterinarians at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center have been consulting with equine reproductive specialists. These experts have years of experience with artificial insemination in horses and provide valuable insight and advice. And because horses and rhinos have several key physical characteristics in common, many of the preparations performed for the birth of a foal can also be applied to the birth of a rhino calf.
As her mid-July due date nears, Victoria will separate herself from the other rhinos at the Rescue Center. Like many mother animals, rhinos prefer to give birth away from others, in a calm place where they feel safe. Helene, another rhino, will be stationed nearby. She’ll be Victoria’s “pregnancy buddy,” keeping her company and providing a soothing, familiar presence without overwhelming her.
When the Big Day Arrives
The new camera system—funded by generous donors like you—has been installed and can be operated remotely. Keepers are using it to monitor Victoria around the clock, in case she goes into labor sooner than expected. Logistics are in place and the barn has been prepared to welcome a baby rhino. Medicines, emergency supplies, and even blood plasma for transfusions—donated by another rhino, Nikita—are assembled and ready, but hopefully won’t be needed.
While keepers, veterinarians, and other experts will be present for Victoria’s delivery, our hope is that they won’t have to participate. Ideally, she’ll deliver her calf on her own and not need human assistance. But if complications do occur, the team at the Rhino Rescue Center is prepared to help.
Once the baby is born, both Victoria and her calf will get health checks, and they’ll continue to receive them daily. Veterinarians will make sure their temperatures, heart rates, and other vital signs are steady and optimal, and that the calf is able to nurse properly.
Keepers will make sure Victoria’s behavior and temperament are normal for her and that she shows interest in her baby. Then we’ll leave them alone to rest and bond, but we’ll keep an extra-close eye on them with the new camera system. They’ll have around-the-clock care and monitoring to ensure they’re healthy and thriving.
Thank you for your generous support of this one-of-a-kind program. You make milestones like this possible.
A Commitment to Rhino Conservation
While this is the first birth of its kind in San Diego Zoo Global’s 103-year history, it’s part of a larger commitment to save rhinos from extinction. We have been working for decades, along with other accredited organizations, to keep a sustainable population of rhinos safe under human care while working to protect them in the wild. When an average of three wild rhinos are killed each day by poachers, this is more important than ever.
San Diego Zoo Global has the most successful rhino breeding and conservation programs of its kind in the world, and has welcomed nearly 200 rhino babies since 1972. With the help of supporters like you, we’re committed to bringing these gentle giants back from the brink of extinction.