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
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
here to ADOPT a Sumatran rhino
here to become a member of CREW