One of the reasons I love and admire zoo atlanta is their strive to keep the animals health(both physical and mental) the main priority.
Last week we were finally able to obtain an ultrasound image of our rhino fetus! We have known since December that our eastern black rhinoceros, Andazi, is pregnant because of hormone results from fecal assays. Since then the hoofstock keepers have been training Andazi to participate in ultrasound procedures to monitor the fetus. Without the use of a squeeze shoot!
That’s right as you can see in the picture Dr. Sam is literally risking life and limb performing an ultra(and later a rectal exam) on a free standing willing rhino. Squeeze shoots are a normal practice in husbandry, so it is a viable solution. But stressing our animals is something we never want to do. So instead of restraints we try treats.
Despite diligent efforts by the keepers and our veterinary team, Andazi did not cooperate well enough for an image to be obtained using transrectal ultrasound for the first 6months. This is the usual way that ultrasound images are obtained of rhino fetuses. Because rhinos have thick skin and are very large bodied, it is difficult to obtain an image using the probe on the abdomen.
However, the keepers and vets did not give up and continued to try this method with Andazi. Last week it paid off. We were able to see the fetus’ ribs and to see it moving. We are very excited about this and will continue to try to obtain more images. It’s nice to know that the fetus is alive and well. Andazi is due sometime from September 23 and November 25. This will be the first black rhino born at Zoo Atlanta and it will be the first calf for Andazi and her mate Utenzi. Black rhinos are critically endangered primarily because of poaching for their horns. We are eager to welcome this calf to our family and to use this high profile birth to educate people about the plight of black rhinos in the wild.