Indonesia: The Rhino Protection Unit Programme

The Rhino Protection Unit 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 National Parks by working in close cooperation with the Park management – the Ministry of Forestry. It provides the backbone to Sumatran rhino conservation. Without the operation of dedicated Rhino Protection Units, rhino numbers would be severely compromised.

The problem

The Sumatran and Javan rhinos are possibly the rarest and most endangered large mammals in the world, with less than 80 and 61-63 individual animals surviving in the wild respectively. Sumatran and Javan rhinos were once bountiful and ranged over many hundreds of thousands of square miles stretching from India to Indonesia. Today they are found in small, fragmented populations.

The Rhino Protection Unit programme was initiated in the late 1990s by local and international organisations in response to the catastrophic decline in Sumatran and Javan rhino numbers. It was intended to strengthen the protection and management of the National Parks by working in close cooperation with the Park management.

How are Rhino Protection Units tackling this problem?

The wildlife protection efforts of Rhino Protection Units have been commendable; since the inception of the programme, only five rhinos have been poached – one of which was in 2006 in Way Kambas. Poaching, both opportunistic and organised (as well as other wildlife crimes including illegal logging, encroachment, non-timber forest product extracting and hunting) poses a threat to the rhino populations, other wildlife and the habitat as a whole.

Teams of four highly motivated, locally employed Rhino Protection Unit 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, Rhino Protection Units also proactively prevent poaching attempts before they take place and closely cooperate with the police on the prosecution of wildlife criminals.

Rhino Protection Units 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 programme is critical, aiming to stabilise and recover the populations and protect the ecosystem.

Our work

Save the Rhino International has been supporting the work of Rhino Protection Units, helping rangers to effectively carry out their rhino protection and monitoring efforts.

In fact the formula for the Rhino Protection Unit 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).  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 South East Asia and indeed the world.

Species

Sumatran rhino
(Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)

Javan rhino
(Rhinoceros sondaicus)

Activities

Anti-poaching and rhino monitoring

Community conservation

 

Protecting Rhinos
Reducing Illegal Horn Trade
Involving Communities
Bringing Experts Together

Species

Sumatran rhino
(Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)

Javan rhino
(Rhinoceros sondaicus)

Activities

Anti-poaching and rhino monitoring

Community conservation