Ashakiran, an 11 year old female Indian rhinoceros (rhinoceros unicornis) affectionately known to her keepers as "Asha", gave birth to a male calf on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 9:42 pm.
This recent birth is very important for Indian rhinoceros 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. 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.
"Asha is on a breeding loan from Los Angeles Zoo and it is these partnerships that will bring us one step closer to overall conservation efforts to save this incredible species," says Maria Franke, Curator of Mammals, Toronto Zoo. "I would also like to thank the amazing team at the Toronto Zoo for all of the hard work and dedication that has resulted in this significant birth."
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 with your support we can continue our rhinoceros conservation efforts.