When Quetta the Indian Rhinoceros, who is normally calm and relaxed, began nervously pacing at the Basel Zoo on Saturday, January 7, keepers suspected that she might be in labor. Quetta remained in her stall all night, alternately standing and lying down. Around 11:45 PM, she delivered a healthy male calf after a 492-day pregnancy.
Born while his mother was standing up, the calf, named Orys, landed on his back but soon rolled onto his stomach. Within an hour he was standing on wobbly legs. Though he is tiny compared to his mother, Orys weighed an impressive 150 pounds a few days after birth.
Basel Zoo has a long history of breeding Rhinos. Orys is Quetta’s fourth calf and the 35th Indian Rhinoceros to be reared at Basel Zoo. The first Indian Rhino birth in a European Zoo occurred at Basel Zoo in 1956.
Every Rhino birth is significant. Once ranging across Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, Indian Rhinos are now found only in a few protected areas in India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Indian Rhinos are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with about 3,500 individuals remaining in the wild. Indian Rhinos are one of five Rhino species in the world, and all are under threat.
Basel Zoo coordinates the International Studbook and the European Endangered Species Programme for Indian Rhinos and is active in the ‘Indian Rhino Vision 2020’ project to conserve wild Rhinos in India. Globally, about 220 Indian Rhinos live in zoos.