For the first time in 26 years, seven Sumatran rhinos were filmed on hidden cameras this week in an Indonesian national park. Some feared the critically endangered species had become extinct in the region.
Experts believe there are less than 200 Sumatran rhinos left in the world, but on Thursday seven of them were sighted in the Mount Leuser National Park in Indonesia. It is the first sighting in 26 years. The group of six females and one male were caught on infrared cameras set up in the northern tip of the park.
“This discovery can allay doubts over the rhino’s presence in the park,” Tarmizi, team leader of the Leuser International Foundation told AFP. He added he hoped the discovery would encourage more efforts to conserve the species.
The Leuser International Foundation set up the cameras late last year in two locations in the park where they thought the rhinos might be living.
“The team brilliantly acquired more than 1,000 images showing the Sumatran rhinos in excellent condition,” said LIF.
“We hope that this number can increase when we finish our survey at several other locations.” The researchers are optimistic they will eventually find an estimated 25 rhinos.
Sumatran rhinos, which are the smallest of their species, have dropped in population by 50 percent over the past 20 years due to poachers and the logging industry that has destroyed much of their habitat.
The LIF team ran into indications of illegal forest activity that could threaten the survival of the rhino and other animals during their study. With evidence on film, authorities will now be better prepared to stop the poachers and loggers.
The LIF study was funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Mount Leuser National Park is home to 710 animal species, with 180 of them declared endangered. It is the only place where the Sumatran rhino, Sumatran orangutan, Sumatran tiger, Sumatran elephant and Malayan sun bear all live side-by-side. All are on the endangered list.
In June a baby Sumatran rhino was born in captivity. It is the fourth birth in more than a century.
Photo Credit: InternationalRhinoFoundation