The calf was born to first-time mom Tensing after 11 failed artificial insemination procedures

By Kelli Bender
February 27, 2020 03:29 PM
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Courtesy Denver Zoo

Put your horns up!

The Denver Zoo is celebrating the arrival of their first greater one-horned rhino calf. According to the Colorado zoo, the little girl, who has yet to be named, was born on Feb. 22 to first-time mom Tensing.

The 13-year-old rhino mom was quick to bond with her little bundle of hooves and started nursing, grooming, and napping with her baby shortly after the birth.

To allow this bond to strengthen more, the Denver Zoo’s animal care team is keeping this pair behind the scenes for the next 6 to 8 weeks. This time off exhibit will also allow caretakers to monitor the rhino mom and daughter to make sure the animals are healthy.

“The birth of this calf is the result of a truly heroic effort by our animal care, health and science teams and partners from other zoos to support the species,” Brian Aucone, senior vice president for animal sciences at the zoo, said in a release. “It’s a significant event for several reasons, including the fact that this is the first greater one-horned rhino born at Denver Zoo, and because it was another very important step in reproductive science for animals in the wild and human care.”

Courtesy Denver Zoo

The journey to the calf’s arrival was a long one. A group of experts from AZA-accredited zoos conducted 11 unsuccessful artificial insemination procedures on Tensing between 2014 and 2018 before the rhino became pregnant on the 12th attempt in December 2018.

Courtesy Denver Zoo

“Tensing’s journey from pregnancy to motherhood exemplifies the care our team provides to ensure our animals are able to voluntarily participate in their own medical care,” the zoo’s assistant pachyderm curator, Lindsey Kirkman, said in the release. “It took extraordinary patience and dedication over countless hours to make Tensing feel at ease with the artificial insemination and ultrasound procedures that ultimately resulted in a healthy mom and calf.”

Courtesy Denver Zoo

Just by existing, this female calf is helping preserve her species, which is listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN Red List. Once widespread throughout several Asian countries, the greater one-horned rhino, also known as the Indian rhino, dwindled down to a population of just 200 in the 20th century due to being hunted for sport. Strict protection efforts have helped the species rebound. There are now an estimated 3,500 greater one-horned rhinos in the wild. The species is still threatened by human-rhino conflicts, poaching, and habitat loss.