“There were many trials of artificial insemination, but Budapest zoo’s female rhino, called Lulu, is the first that got the baby and the whole insemination took place at the beginning of April.”
Budapest Zoo celebrates successful artificial insemination of endangered white rhino
So how big is the small white baby rhino at this moment?
“I can’t tell you exactly the size. On the 22nd of August we made a 3-d ultra sound examination. That time the rhino baby was 18 centimetres long, so, not so big at this moment… But, you have to know that rhinos and births happens, can be around 40 to 50 kilos.”
So it’s a very small rhino at this moment. Is this normal? Is this ok?
“Yes, very ok. It’s very interesting because a female rhino can be within 2000 and 2500 kilos, and if you consider that a baby is around 50, it’s really a huge difference, because if you see the new born calf, it can be around 30 kilos, so it’s very normal, and with rhinos.”
Now, why was this artificial insemination necessary at all, after all, this female rhino lives together with a male at the Budapest Zoo.
“Yes exactly, but it’s called the brother and sister relationship – this is a technical term which means that when you keep rhinos in pairs, and the rhinos came to a zoo or a facility at a very early age, they see each other as brothers and sisters, so they will never breed normally, naturally. That’s why it was very important to intervene, because it was a kind of race with time, and female rhinos reach around a year, 20, 25, they can develop alterations in their reproductive system, and after a while, it will be impossible to do anything from a reproductive point of view.”
Nevertheless, is her partner, Easyboy, the father?
“Yes, Easyboy is the father, and as I mentioned, there is no chance for natural breeding. That’s why we have to get the sperm from Easyboy, and we use this material to inseminate Lulu.”
How is she doing? How does she like the whole thing? Does she realize she is pregnant?
“Probably she realized, we don’t really see much difference now. Probably her tummy is a little bit bigger, and she has a very good appetite. What is necessary is that we control the animal; we collect fecal samples two times a week and we collect blood sample once a week and all the hormone analyses show that it’s a normal result that it’s a normal pregnancy at this time, and hopefully it will remain like this.”
And this artificial insemination of the rhino is totally unique in the world at this point, I mean, the success of it?
“Yes, because there were about 30 trials, and obviously Lulu was not the only female rhino who was artificially inseminated. This was a joint effort. We worked together with the experts from Berlin. There is a wildlife institute and this is the department and this is the department of — Sciences, plus we worked together with two veterinarians from Salzburg zoo, who made a lot of interventions like this, and there were quite a few rhinos in Europe and also in Israel and some other countries.
“They tried to inseminate – but you need the special skills, you need special equipment, plus you need the proper rhino and Lulu was a unique animal, from point of view that she was relatively young, not too young, so the chances are not so high but, we started the whole thing in the year 2001, so we had to notice that there were already alternations, generations in the reproductive system, so we had to treat her and after a while, we saw some development, continuously we monitored the animal, and this was the second trial. There were in two German zoos, two successful trials, but these embryos that, after a short period of pregnancy, there are some theories why it happened but, it’s not sure yet, but for sure, so far, this is the longest pregnancy ever, made by artificial insemination.”