Groundbreaking Effort Launched to Save Critically Endangered Sumatran Rhinos

With fewer than 80 Sumatran rhinos left in the world, the future isn’t looking good for this critically endangered species. However, their advocates aren’t giving up hope just yet.

Sumatran rhinos are the smallest rhinos in the world, and they’re now also the most endangered. They now exist in small isolated populations on islands of Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo.

Over the past few decades poaching and habitat loss have caused their disappearance from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, India, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, and they were most recently declared extinct in Malaysia.

Now, however, conservationists believe that isolation is now the biggest threat to their survival. Without the ability to find each other and mate, their future is looking grim. It’s especially problematic for this species because if females go too long without breeding, they become infertile.

Just in time for World Rhino Day, five major conservation organizations including the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission, Global Wildlife Conservation, International Rhino Foundation, National Geographic Society and World Wildlife Fund have partnered up to help support the Indonesian government’s national Sumatran rhino conservation breeding program, which is now otherwise known as the Sumatran Rhino Rescue project.

“Rescuing the Sumatran rhino from extinction is an extremely high priority for the government of Indonesia,” said Wiratno, Director General of Nature Conservation and Ecosystems, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Government of Indonesia. “Working with species conservation experts, and with local authorities and communities to support the campaign and raise awareness, we have prepared an Emergency Action Plan for the rhino that calls for the establishment of a national conservation breeding program. The Sumatran Rhino Rescue project will be of critical importance in this effort and we welcome the support of this coalition of organizations from around the world.”

The coalition’s goal is to find them, especially individuals who aren’t likely to find others of their kind on their own, and relocate them to facilities where they can breed. Now, intervening on such a scale is being seen as their best possible chance for survival.

“This is our last opportunity to raise the profile of this lesser-known species of rhino and preserve over 20 million years of evolutionary history,” said Jonathan Baillie, executive vice president and chief scientist at the National Geographic Society. “Now is the time to take action together.”

The coalition hopes to build two new sanctuaries for them, one in Indonesian Borneo, and another in Sumatra. As of now, there’s only one, the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, which was built by the International Rhino Foundation in Way Kambas National Park.

There, they hope to build on what’s been learned by past failures and successes when it comes to captive breeding of Sumatran rhinos, and hopefully more births will soon come.

“This enormous challenge cannot be successfully tackled by a single organization on its own. At the IUCN Species Survival Commission we are proud to convene this strong and uncommon alliance, and are confident that we’ll see the Sumatran rhino thrive once more,” said Jon Paul Rodríguez, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

Photo credit: International Rhino Foundation/Sumatran Rhino Rescue

76 comments

HEIKKI R
HEIKKI R2 months ago

thank you

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

Really awesome Thank you for cring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

Interesting article Thank you for cring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

Wonderful news Thank you for cring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

Hope this is successful Thank you for cring and sharing

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Lindi S
Lindi S2 months ago

They need really tight security if they are going to house these animals in the same places they are exploited. Move them to mid-western Canada to a nice massive ranch with [again] security and they might have half a chance. The destruction of other living beings by humans has gotten totally out of control.

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Clare O
Clare O2 months ago

The problem is not just China wanting to buy rhino horns but the islamification of Malaysia and Sumatra - the culture of these people is now to kill and exploit, including exploiting women to expand the population fast. This is a cultural issue just like the cultures in China that think toenail clippings (the same as rhino horn) would be medicine. Look to Saudi Arabia for financing the takeover of other lands by a primitive fundamentalist culture. With so many illiterate pregnant people there is no room left for native animals.

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx2 months ago

@ Alea C : I fully agree with you that it has no sense at all to do nothing, or so little against the illegal poaching of rhinos, just to collect their little horn, and leave them behind to die. And all these Chinese culprits should finally realise that they are no longer helped with their ancient medicines, all made partially with animal parts. Going from gal bladders, to swim bladders, over ivory tusks and rhinos horn, and a lot more. Now these 5 big organisations will work together to hopefully will raise the number of births, but I also hope that at the same time they will organise sufficient help to these countries to increase very highly the number of guards, having the education and authorisation to shoot the poachers. Those who have no compassion with animals, should not expect any compassion from us !!! But they have to start somewhere. I hope I'm right in thinking that more guards, more customs controls and of course more and better laws and regulations to punish those who in one way of the other are killing the most valuable creatures on earth : THE ANIMALS !!

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckx2 months ago

It is really GREAT that several organisations want to work together to save the critically endangered Sumatran Rhino. They should do that for many other animals, and I particularly think of whales, as to protect these animals you need medium to large oceangoing vessels, in good condition, so they can intervene when they see poaching, fishing vessels killing part of the small remaining numbers. And this goes not only for 1 particular whales. No, nearly all subspecies, the biggest and the smallest are suffering badly. These whales do not bother about borders, and in which seas they are swimming to catch their food. No, each year they travel to various locations, depending where their food is abundant at that moment. So, this is even a more international matter than the Sumatran Rhinos. I hope with all my heart this may become of MAJOR SUCCESS, and that this then would lead to a closer co-operation for the salvage of so many other different species of wild life. I understand Roslyn M that you are angry about the attitude of the human race. So do I, but deep inside I keep hoping that younger generation has more / better vision on our future than the generation that is ruling our world NOW !! Captain Watson of Sea Shepherd has not given up his fight either !! Now for about 40 years I think.

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Roslyn M
Roslyn McBride2 months ago

Too many animals are either losing too much of their habitat, or being poached, or both, does the human race care about making several species extinct?

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