Rare rhinoceros first birth in captivity in 112 years

CINCINNATI -- For the first time 112 years, a Sumatran rhinoceros has been bred and born in captivity, and experts say that lifts their hopes that the species can be saved.

Officials at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden hailed the birth of the healthy male calf Thursday as a historic event.

Sumatran rhinos once roamed across much of Southeast Asia, but there are only about 300 left, making them among the world's most endangered mammals.

The mother is 11-year-old Emi, whose previous five pregnancies ended in miscarriages. She and the father rhino, named Ipuh, are the only breeding pair of Sumatran rhinos in the United States.

"I believe that the probability of survival of this species has moved from somewhere below 50-50 to significantly above it," said Tom Foose, program director of the International Rhino Foundation.

Foose called the birth an "epochal" event, adding that what has been learned about the rhinos' reproductive cycle from the Cincinnati birth is being put to use elsewhere. The last time a Sumatran rhino was bred and born in captivity was in India in 1889.

Emi and Ipuh are on loan from the Indonesian government as part of a multinational captive breeding program that began in 1984.

But until Thursday, the program had not produced a single Sumatran rhino calf.

The birth was called "a hugely significant event" by Ted Beattie, immediate past president of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and CEO of Chicago's Shedd Aquarium.