Out of all the rhino species, the Sumatran rhinoceros is considered to be the most endangered. Things have gotten worse, however, with the rhino being declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia. Now, the only chance for the species to survive rests on an estimated 100 individuals that are scattered across a handful of national parks in Indonesia, with 9 in captivity.
Leading scientists and experts in the field of rhino conservation have said in a new paper that there have been no signs of the wild Sumatran rhinoceros in Malaysia since 2007, that is apart from the capture of two females for breeding purposes in 2011 and 2014. The scientists have determined that these two individuals were not enough to say that there was a population remaining today.
The scientists wrote “that it is safe to consider the Sumatran rhinoceros extinct in the wild in Malaysia.”
Experts have urged that conservation efforts in Indonesia intensify for the Sumatran rhinoceros.
Lead author Rasmus Gren Havmøller, from the University of Copenhagen, said: “It is vital for the survival of the species that all remaining Sumatran rhinos are viewed as a metapopulation, meaning that all are managed in a single program across national and international borders in order to maximize overall birth rate. This includes the individuals currently held in captivity.”
Searching for the last Sumatran rhinos:
According to Eurek Alert, the experts point to the creation of intensive management zones as a solution; areas with increased protection against poaching, where individual rhinos can be relocated to, in order to increase the number of potential and suitable mating partners.
Historically ranging across most of Southeast Asia, the Sumatran rhino is now only found in the wild in Indonesia. Here, fewer than 100 individuals in total are estimated to live in three separate populations, one of which has seen a critical decline in distribution range of 70 percent over the last decade, wrote the University of Copenhagen.
This trend echoes how the Sumatran rhino population dropped from around 500 to extinction between 1980 and 2005 in Sumatra’s largest protected area, the enormous 1,379,100 hectare Kerinci Sebelat National Park, the university added.
Baby Sumatran rhino plays with his mom:
According to IFL Science, the smallest living species of rhino, it is also the hairiest, with young animals sporting a particularly shaggy coat,and adults retaining sparse tufts of hair. Despite there being fewer Javan rhinos, the Sumatran is considered more endangered simply due to the speed at which the species has been extirpated from its range over the past two decades. It’s estimated that the population has declined by over 50% per decade, as poaching for its horn and habitat destruction takes its toll.
“Serious effort by the government of Indonesia should be put to strengthen rhino protection by creating Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ), intensive survey of the current known habitats, habitat management, captive breeding, and mobilizing national resources and support from related local governments and other stakeholders,” Widodo Ramono, co-author and Director of the Rhino Foundation of Indonesia, said.
Christy Williams, co-author and coordinator of the WWF Asian and Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy said: “The tiger in India was saved from extinction due to the direct intervention of Mrs. Gandhi, the then prime minister, who set up Project Tiger. A similar high level intervention by President Joko Widodo of Indonesia could help pull the Sumatran rhinos back from the brink.”