It’s a Rhino! Meet Ratu’s Vet, Dr. Zulfi Arsan

Ever wonder who works at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary and takes care of the rhinos? Here’s a chance to learn about Dr. Zulfi Arsan, the lead veterinarian at the SRS, and to find out about what they’re doing to prepare for Ratu’s birth.

Dr. Zulfi Arsan and Andalas. The sign says: “Happy Birthday Andalas – 14 Years”

Why did you chose to become a vet?
I was raised in a family that loves animals. As a kid, I had many pets, including cats, turtles, dogs, chicken, and various birds. My two favorite were a pet heron and a cat. I’ve always felt a special bond with all my animals and loved to take care of them. When I was 12 years old, I treated my cat by cleaning her wounds with betadine and applying a simple wound dressing. A few years later, I made a brace to help my chicken whose leg had broken. Both treatments worked! It was then that decided to become a veterinarian, not because I feel like I have a special gift to cure animals, but because I feel it is very hard to find good vet practitioners in Indonesia at that time. When I got to vet school, I discovered that wildlife vets are even more rare, so I promised to focus on wildlife medicine.

What’s your favorite part about being a vet at the SRS?
I love being able to work with rhinos both when they’re healthy and when they need veterinary assistance. When they are healthy, it is interesting to observe this beautiful species and learn about their behavior; I feel luck to constantly increase my rhino knowledge. Whenever they get ill, I am glad that I am able to help them.

What is a typical day at the SRS like for you?
Everyday brings new things and new lessons. I get to work on animals that I love and my coworkers here are amazing. It’s also a (mostly) stress-free environment – something that you couldn’t get easily elsewhere.

Who is your favorite rhino and why?
Andalas. He behaves differently, depending on the situation, and especially during the breeding period. The first time he introduced him to the females, he was so impatient, especially with Rosa and Bina. But over time, he has adapted his behavior and has become more gentle with
Rosa and even with Bina – and historically, she’s been aggressive towards him. We really have Andalas’ keepers to thank for this behavior change. I also am fond of Andalas because he is a symbol of the breakthrough we’ve finally made on Sumatran rhinos conservation and captive breeding. He gives me hope that Sumatran rhinos will survive!

Ratu is due to her have her baby in a few weeks.
Ratu is due to her have her baby in a few weeks.

Does Ratu act differently when she’s pregnant? Does she act differently after she’s given birth?
Yes she does! She becomes more sensitive and more aggressive when she’s pregnant. When Andatu was born, she certainly acted differently and became more tolerant of us, yet still alert. She allowed us to touch and care for Andatu within hours of his birth, which surprised us!

How will you know when it’s time for her to go into labor?
Based on the data of all previous pregnancies, we could estimate the date of the birth to be between May 5th-7th. At the end of April, we will start intensive monitoring with the CCTV. When it’s time for the birth, she will try to push the baby into birth canal using gravity – she will raise up her front legs and head. It almost looks like she’s trying to climb a tree. Finally, she will gift birth to the amniotic sac which will be quickly followed by the baby.

What is the plan for labor? (How do you work differently with her? What care will she get?)
We do hope that the birth will go as smoothly as her previous labor, and that both mother and the baby are healthy. However we are prepared for a range of scenarios and to respond with various interventions. I’m praying and hoping that won’t have to use any of them! We also preparing some rhino milk replacer for the baby, just in case Ratu can not feed the baby immediately after birth.

How are the keepers preparing for the birth?
Ratu’s keepers are lucky to have experienced the birth of Andatu – lessons from that experience will help us with Ratu’s second birth. The preparation and renovation of the maternity enclosure and boma is complete. Plus, she gets lots of extra care from the keepers.


Help Zulfi and the rest of Ratu’s dedicated veterinarians prepare for her second birth. We’re inviting you to one of the biggest baby showers of the year.

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