Toronto Zoo’s rhino calf ‘Nandu’ doing well; gaining weight, playing in mud

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Nandu, the Indian rhino calf was born in the Toronto Zoo on February 17, 2016, to mother Ashakiran (affectionately known to her keepers as “Asha”) and father Vishnu. He is gaining approximately 5lbs per day, now weighing over 500lbs. He has now been introduced to the outdoors, has started to slowly eat some solid foods and his teeth are starting to grow in. Be sure to watch for Nandu and mom playing in the mud in the outdoor Indian rhino habitat.

“Nandu”, pronounced None-do, meaning “one who is cheerful and happy”has been confirmed as the name for the Toronto Zoo’s male Indian rhino calf! Three of the Zoo’s Wildlife Care Indian Rhino Keepers each chose a potential name for the calf, but they just couldn’t all agree on one name! Toronto Zoo asked the public to vote online to help decide on the BEST name for our rhino calf. The “Name Our Rhino Calf” promotion consisted of three names: Nandu, Kaziranga and Vihaan.

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More than 11,500 people voted in the Toronto Zoo’s “Name Our Rhino Calf” promotion and a name has been chosen.

“I am so honoured and excited that the public has voted for Nandu to be the name of our Indian Rhino calf,” says Ryan Hegarty, Wildlife Care, Toronto Zoo. “He definitely lives up to the name and is one happy “little” guy. Nandu will bring much joy to visitors when they meet him and inspire people to help the Toronto Zoo with the ongoing efforts to save these amazing animals.”

This calf is very important for Indian rhinoceros (rhinoceros unicornis) conservation as the species is currently listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species and there are only approximately 2,000 left in the wild. Declined to near extinction in the early 1900’s the Indian rhino was once listed as Endangered however, with conservation efforts and strict protection, it was down listed to Vulnerable.

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Entrance to the Kaziranga national park in India

This is considered a conservation success story but they are not out of the woods. Habitat degradation, human rhino conflict, and poaching continue to be threats. The Indian rhinoceros exists in a few small subpopulations in Nepal and India (West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Assam) inhabiting the riverine grasslands of the Terai and Brahmaputra Basins. With 70% of the wild population occurring in one area in Kaziranga National Park, any catastrophic event could have a huge impact on conservation efforts for this species.

This is the first surviving calf for Asha (11 years old) and Vishnu (13 years old). Asha, on breeding loan from Los Angeles Zoo, gave birth to a stillborn calf back in 2011, and since then was able to get pregnant, but could not maintain pregnancy. The Toronto Zoo partnered with the Cincinnati Zoo and proceeded to follow their developed protocol of giving oral progesterone to Asha to help her maintain pregnancy. This collaborative research resulted in the birth of this healthy calf and will strengthen conservation breeding efforts in the future. This is the fourth birth of an Indian rhinoceros in Toronto Zoo’s history. The last Indian rhinoceros to be born at the Toronto Zoo was a female named Sanya, born August 14, 1999, who now resides at The Wilds in Ohio, USA.

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The Toronto Zoo is part of the Indian Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan (SSP), which aims to establish and maintain healthy, genetically diverse populations, and overall conservation efforts to save this incredible species. One of the Toronto Zoo’s mandates is to educate visitors on current conservation issues and help preserve the incredible biodiversity on the planet. The Toronto Zoo is in a great position to bring forward the plight of the Indian rhinoceros and supports rhinoceros conservation efforts in the wild through the Toronto Zoo Endangered Species Reserve Fund. – CINEWS/Toronto Zoo.

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