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Montgomery Zoo's new rhino, featured on NBC's Today Show, named "Ethan" after Midland City child hostage

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

The Montgomery Zoo received some national attention Saturday morning when NBC's Today Show aired a segment featuring the facility's new baby rhinoceros, the first known rhino conceived through artificial insemination and thrive in captivity.

During the segment The Montgomery Zoo presented the new baby rhino, named "Ethan" in honor of the Midland City, Alabama child who was held hostage for a week inside a bunker by suspect Jimmy Lee Dykes.

Baby Ethan, a male Indian rhino calf, is the first rhino calf born in a U.S. zoo to thrive after being conceived by artificial insemination.

A guest interview was also held with Dr. Monica Stoops, a reproductive physiologist with the Cincinnati Zoo Academy.

Dr. Stoops worked with the Montgomery Zoo's staff to perform the artificial insemination procedure on Ethan's mother, Jeta. She's a 12-year-old rhinoceros that is on an extended breeding loan from the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Ethan's biological father is a rhino named Himal whose semen was frozen in 2004  and stored at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden's Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) until being brought to Alabama.

"Everyone at the Cincinnati Zoo and the scientists at CREW are incredibly excited to watch this calf grow up," Dr. Stoops said. "The scientific significance of the birth and the successful upbringing by Jeta are a lifetime of work in the making..."she added.

Ethan is Jeta's second calf and weighs approximately 90 pounds.

The calf's birth, which happened after nearly 16 months in gestation, is a significant moment in the scientific community. The Indian rhino is an endangered species. There are only 60 in captivity in the United States and an estimated 2,500 remaining in the wild.

The Cincinnati Zoo successfully impregnated a female rhino in 2010 using frozen sperm from a male at the Bronx Zoo. While the calf was born successfully, it died shortly afterwards. This previous attempt was the most successful made with artificial insemination and this species until now.

Experts say attempts at natural breeding of captive Indian rhinos frequently results in severe aggression between the male and female. Artificial insemination can be used to improve the genetic health of those rhinos by infusing genes from non- or under-represented rhinos.

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