Indonesia: RPU Programme


Location: Bukit Barisan Selatan and Way Kambas National Parks in Sumatra and Ujung Kulon National Park in Java
Project leader: Bibhab Talukdar
Project partners: Indonesian Rhino Conservation Programme and the International Rhino Foundation
Rhino species: Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) and Javan rhinos (Rhinoceros sondaicus)
Rhino numbers: Approximately 100 Sumatran rhinos and 58-61 Javan rhinos
Activities: anti-poaching, monitoring, community development and education
Support: We focus on helping to cover the core costs of the Rhino Protection Unit programme in three National Parks, who patrol the protected areas and prosecute illegal activity
Funding partners: International Rhino Foundation, Chester Zoo, BBC Wildlife Fund, Silver Jungle Ltd

Indonesian RPU staff

Rhino Protection Unit on Forest Patrol - Credit Cyril Ruoso

The Rhino Protection Unit (RPU) programme was initiated by local and international organisations in response to the catastrophic decline in Sumatran rhino numbers. It is intended to strengthen the protection and management of the National Parks by working in close cooperation with the Park management (Ministry of Forestry). It provides the backbone to Sumatran rhino conservation. Without the operation of dedicated RPUs, animal numbers would be severely compromised.    

In fact the formula for the RPU programme has proven to be so successful that training has been provided for other Sumatran species (orangutan, tiger), as well as for other areas (North Sumatra, Malaysia). SOS Rhino’s RPU teams in Sabah are directly based on that model. The programme has been very successful and has been recognised by both the Government of Indonesia and the global conservation community as one of the most effective and successful conservation programmes for megafaunal species in SE Asia and indeed the world.

Indonesian Rhino Protection Unit Staff

Rhino Protection Unit Staff - Credit Asian Rhino Project

Since the inception of the RPU programme, only five rhinos have been poached – one of which was in 2006 in Way Kambas – demonstrating how poaching, both opportunistic and organised (as well as other wildlife crimes including illegal logging, encroachment, non-timber forest product extracting and hunting) is increasing and posing a real threat to the rhino populations, other wildlife and the habitat as a whole. Teams of four highly motivated, locally employed RPU rangers rigorously patrol the forest to destroy snares / traps and apprehend poachers, as Park authorities do not have sufficient capacity for such intensive patrolling. Through intelligence operations, RPUs also proactively prevent poaching attempts before they take place and closely cooperate with the police on the prosecution of wildlife criminals.

RPUs also play an important role in monitoring the population of rhino and other wildlife, including Sumatran tigers and Sumatran elephants. All signs and tracks are recorded on special data sheets and linked into GIS systems. The on-going operation of the RPU programme is critical, aiming to stabilise and recover the populations and protect the ecosystem.