Baby rhino at Cincinnati Zoo dies

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email|Facebook

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Cincinnati Zoo is known around the world for not only the exhibits, but the ground-breaking science that happens on a daily basis.

Tuesday, the Zoo broke ground again, by giving birth to a live baby male Indian rhino. But by Tuesday evening, the news was sad. The baby rhino had died.

Despite that loss, it was still an amazing day for the Zoo. Scientific progress was not born on overnight success. It takes years of hard, hard work. It was an emotional day, to say the least, for Zoo staff.

A beautiful Indian rhino was born at 6:06 a.m. Tuesday morning. It was the first successful live birth using artificial insemination.

It's an endangered species from India, Nepal and Tibet. The whole world was rooting for him to pull-out of critical condition.

The unnamed baby rhino lived about 13 hours.

"Breeding endangered species is something the Cincinnati Zoo is very famous for," said Thane Maynard, Director of the world-famous Zoo. "This birth in particular is significant because this was the first successful birth of an artificially inseminated Indian rhino."

He came from a frozen embryo. The rhino's father, whom the mom, Nikki, never met, lives at the Bronx Zoo.

"Well, at the Cincinnati Zoo, we're smoke free so we don't hand out cigars," Maynard said beaming proudly and waving a small card he pulled from his breast pocket. "But we do have a special trading card of Nikki, the most famous rhino in the world today."

And at the Zoo's Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife, or CREW for short, they are saving species with science.

"And that's exactly what we're doing by leading the way in this case," Maynard said. "With assisted reproduction with rhino species."

The first try with Nikki produced a stillbirth.

"This is the first time ever for the Indian rhino to have artificial insemination be successful," he said.

Keeper staff and medical staff went through truly heroic efforts to save the animal, which was born with a heartbeat but was not breathing.

"CPR was conducted on this rhino for 40 minutes," Maynard said. "When I say CPR, I mean the full thing, mouth to mouth resuscitation for over 40 minutes."

The same way you would perform the procedure on a human being.

"It is unprecedented in an animal this big to do that kind of thing," he said.

The first 12 hours were critical. They had to insert a 2 foot long feeding tube into the baby rhino.

"She's putting a tube down his throat, we got keeper Randy Parrin holding his mouth open," Maynard said pointing to a photograph on his computer.

They then poured two pints of milk, expressed from mama Nikki, to the hungry youngster. In one photograph, Dr. Monica Stoops pensively watched over the newborn. The Zoo has two of the key rhino experts in the world, Stoops and Dr. Terry Roth, helping with the animal's round the clock care. But even with the best of care, the baby was not strong enough to pull through.

The Zoo released a statement late Tuesday, saying the baby rhino had died after 7 p.m. They did try and resuscitate the calf but were unsuccessful.

This type of artificial insemination is done all the time successfully on cattle and other animals, but never on a rhino.

The Zoo can be proud of the fact this rhino lived, even if only a day.

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