Officials with the Montgomery Zoo are confirming that Ethan, the 4-month old baby rhino that was heralded as a scientific success in the quest to save an endangered species, has died suddenly.
Ethan made national headlines in June for being the first successful rhino born in the United States using artificial insemination. The baby was the focus of a national report by NBC's Today Show in which the doctor who performed the artificial insemination was interviewed.
According to Montgomery Zoo officials, Ethan had shown no signs of problems and was believed to be healthy. The Zoo discovered his lifeless body Friday.
The animal was named after a young boy who was the focus of national headlines, himself, earlier in the year after being rescued from an underground, south Alabama bunker in the Dale County town of Midland City. He was held hostage for nearly a week.
Officials do not know what led to the rhino's death, but say a necropsy will be performed. It could take up to two weeks for results to come back.
The calf's birth, which happened after nearly 16 months in gestation, was a significant moment in the scientific community. The Indian rhino is an endangered species. There are only 60 in captivity in the United States and an estimated 2,500 remaining in the wild.
The team that helped artificially inseminate Ethan's mother, Jeta, is based out of the Cincinnati Zoo. They were not available to comment but a spokesperson for the zoo said everyone there is heartbroken.