Endangered Sumatran rhinoceros born in captivity

Ratu the Sumatran rhinoceros near the end of her pregnancy (22 June 2012) Ratu's pregnancy lasted about 16 months

A Sumatran rhinoceros - one of the world's most endangered species - has given birth at a sanctuary in Indonesia.

Conservationists at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park said the mother, Ratu, and her male calf were both "very well".

It is only the fourth recorded case of a Sumatran rhino being born in captivity in a century.

There are thought to be fewer than 200 alive in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Their numbers have dropped by 50% over the past 20 years, largely due to poaching and loss of habitat.

'Big present'

A spokesman for Indonesia's forest ministry, Masyhud, told the AFP news agency that Ratu's labour had gone "smoothly and naturally".

"It's really a big present for the Sumatran rhino breeding efforts as we know that this is a very rare species which have some difficulties in their reproduction," he added.

"This is the first birth of a Sumatran rhino at a sanctuary in Indonesia."

It was Ratu's third pregnancy. The previous two ended in miscarriages.

The father of the baby rhino, Andalas, was born at Cincinnati Zoo in the US in 2001 - the first Sumatran rhino to be delivered in captivity in 112 years.

He was brought to Indonesia in 2009 to mate with Ratu, who was born in the wild but wandered out of a forest and was taken in by the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary.

On Friday, the US-based International Rhino Foundation said that a veterinary team would harvest Ratu's placental cells, which could be used to generate stem cells.

Stem cells had the potential to be useful for many purposes in the near future, including curing diseases and helping promote reproduction, it said.

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