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Andalas - A Living Legacy
Cincinnati Zoo’s Famous Baby Helps Wild Counterparts

In September 2001, Andalas became the first Sumatran rhino calf to be bred and born in captivity in 112 years. While his birth was monumental, even more compelling was the opportunity to learn more about Sumatran rhino calves. A look back provides a glimpse at the legacy Andalas has provided for the survival of his species.

"This is a great example of how captive animals can help their wild counterparts," said Dr. Terri Roth, Vice President of Animal Sciences for the Cincinnati Zoo. "In the wild, Sumatran rhinos are solitary forest dwellers and rarely seen by humans. Knowledge gained from Andalas will help us protect and understand this species."

In Southeast Asia, rhino protection units rely on footprint measurements to determine how many rhinos exist and the age of rhinos in the areas they are protecting. From the beginning, CREW scientist, Bernadette Plair, began casting Andalas’ footprints to create a series of measurements on a calf of known age.

"Because we had no prior data on rhino calves, the age of animal tracks in the wild could only be estimated," said Dr. Roth. "Now, we have accurate measurements with known ages. We have had several requests for the data from scientists in the field to better identify animal tracks they have found."

When Andalas was young, footprint casts were made while he was lying down. As he grew up, molds were taken from muddy footprints near the wallow in the Zoo’s Sumatran rhino exhibit just as they would be taken from footprints of wild rhinos.
In addition to footprinting, Plair led a behavioral study to better understand the mother-calf relationship and to document nursing frequency and growth rates.

"We couldn’t let this opportunity go by without documenting it," said Plair. "We went in totally blind. There was no previous data to follow. Our work established a baseline. Future births will allow us to begin comparing data and drawing correlations."
Crew scientists were struck at the complete bonding between Emi and Andalas. From the beginning Andalas was intricately tied to Emi. He consistently nursed every hour and then gradually moved to every two-and-a-half hours until he was weaned. Because of this frequency, Andalas gained 2.4 pounds per day and went from weighing 72 pounds at birth to 940 pounds at one year.

"When he was little, we could tell Andalas was nursing because his tail would wag," said Plair. "As he grew, Andalas’ nursing positions changed to accommodate his size. And Emi would adjust her stance to help him nurse."

By one month, Andalas began to eat browse. However, he did not eat on his own. As Emi would eat, Andalas would nibble on the browse sticking out of her mouth.

"Sumatran rhinos have poor eyesight and it’s estimated they eat up to 112 varieties of plants in the wild," said Plair. "We assume this method of eating helps baby rhinos begin learning the proper foods by taste and smell."

The bond between Emi and Andalas was most evident in their sleeping habits. From the time he was about one week old until he was weaned, Andalas spent extended sleeping hours with his body in contact with Emi’s.

During the first year, Emi’s behavior toward Andalas was very tolerant and teaching. She would let him "play" with her by climbing onto her – even when he weighed 700 pounds and almost covered her body.

"After a year, Emi’s interaction with Andalas became less playful," said Plair. "In preparation for his weaning, Emi became more aggressive. It was almost like she was teaching him to be a male rhino."

Andalas loved to butt noses with Emi, however, she eventually began to push back and teach him to be more aggressive. In the wild, male rhinos have no interaction with the babies. So, they learn everything from their mothers. After weaning, the mother goes back to her original territory and the baby stays in the nursing territory where he was raised. They become solitary animals with paths only crossing by chance.

In June 2003, Andalas was moved to the Los Angeles Zoo to make room for his new sibling. Although he is no longer at the Cincinnati Zoo, studies have not ceased.

"We are collecting fecal samples monthly and analyzing them for testosterone levels so we know the age of puberty of Sumatran rhino calves," said Roth. "Clearly, Andalas will continue to provide us with a wealth of information as he matures."

Click here to view Rhino iCam, courtesy of Time Warner Cable

Click here to ADOPT a Sumatran rhino

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