Is there hope for the Sumatran rhino?

Photo credit: International Rhino Foundation

The Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is the world’s oldest surviving rhino species but with an estimate of less than 100 left, their future is looking bleak. Conservation efforts, such as the breeding programme at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Indonesia’s Way Kambas National Park, are crucial if the species is to survive. Earlier this week, this article on gave us a useful overview of the Sumatran rhino’s situation and the efforts underway to save the species.

In 2012, a ray of hope was born at SRS, in the form of a baby male called Andatu. Andatu is particularly special being the first rhino born in the sanctuary and only the fourth born in captivity in the past 100 years. Sumatran rhinos have a unique breeding behaviour, which makes breeding in captivity difficult. A female Sumatran rhino is only receptive to mating during a single day of her oestrous cycle, which if successful results in a gestation period of 15-16 months. The calf then remains reliant on the mother for the first several years of its life, through which the mother is usually restricted from breeding with a male.

The Borneo Rhino Sanctuary houses another three Sumatran rhinos, but these are a subspecies (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis harrissoni) of which only a handful are believed to remain in the wild. So far this programme has been kept separate from the SRS due to their genetic differences. But more recently, the risk of integrating the programmes and losing a subspecies to save the whole species is being considered as a risk worth taking.

It is important to maintain focus on the wild Sumatran rhinos, the majority of which are found in three parks in Sumatra: Bukit Barisan Selatan, Gunung Leuser National Park and Way Kambas. Unfortunately none of these three populations are connected and each is split into smaller subpopulations that are less resilient to poaching effects. An ideal solution would be to create habitat corridors to connect the populations and encourage breeding. Conservationists believe this may not be possible due to high rates of deforestation caused by the palm oil and paper industry and increasing human populations and development. The alternative method would be the consolidation of these rhinos into two or three large populations, a method that has proven successful in other wild rhino species. To do this a more accurate population estimate is required, but this is made challenging by the rhinos’ elusive and shy natures as well as limited funding for the survey work required.

On the brighter side, there is evidence that Sumatran rhinos are still breeding in the wild, and a decision has been made to employ more rangers to increase protection against poaching. Conservation is always a slow process, but with continued support for this unique rhino species it may be possible to prevent it from disappearing forever.

Save the Rhino International is helping to support efforts to save the last Sumatran rhinos by funding Rhino Protection Units in Sumatra, as well as the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary. You can donate specifically to these projects here

2 thoughts on “Is there hope for the Sumatran rhino?

  1. Saving all rhinos is so important. People around the world like myself care deeply about rhinos and their survival and well being. Poachers need to be shot and killed because it is too easy for them to bribe their way out of jail when caught. The use of technology would be an added tool and a greatly expanded budget is also necessary. Thank you from someone who truly loves rhinos.

  2. There are sustainable ways to use elephants,rhinos,and other large mammals to make money without killing them and/or destroying their habitat.GOOGLE this title for a solution being used by some people in India for the Asian Elephant and Indian Rhino- How to save rhinos? By turning their dung into paper.

    A possible solution I figured out is:

    The Real Large Mammal Medicine And Food-Cash Cows

    It is not elephant tusks or rhino horn that have medicinal properties or miracle cures.However,there may actually be a real medicine as well as food source from rhinos and elephants and many other large herbivorous mammals in Africa like hippos,eland,cape buffalo,manatees and dugons-without killing them or destroying their habitat!

    It is their milk! Here are 2 examples of PROVEN MEDICINAL QUALITIES: 1.One example was shown in “Durrell In Russia”about people in Russia raising eland for the milk and saying it was good for fighting diseases(I think the examples of diseases were yellow fever and tuberculoses).
    2.A second example is Yak milk has properties in fighting high blood pressure.
    Therefore the milk from all mammals that are large enough to produce large amounts of milk should be milked for investigation of medicinal qualities like possible malaria immunity and help fight other tropical diseases that the animals in those areas are exposed to and are deadly to people.Of course the milk would probably be great for food products too and help make those animals benefit from high demand.

    Large herbivorous mammals in Asia could also benefit from high demand too by milking them for use for food products and medicinal properties.Some examples of food products made from and/or using milk are cheese,chocolate,cream,ice cream,mayonaise,butter et.The animals could be captured as mother and it’s young,milk the mother,then release them after milking.That should only be done with mothers that have young that are already eating solid food to avoid the young from not getting enough milk.That would not only make the animals “Cash Cows”without killing them,but also greatly encourage people to breed whatever animals they would be milking for the probable high price of wildlife milk to replace the high price of rhino horn and elephant tusk.Of course the milk used for food products should be tested for toxic plant residue since some animals may eat plants that are toxic to people.Like venom from mulluscs,snakes and lizards etc.,some plants that are toxic to eat and or may make the milk toxic for human consumption may also have medical qualities too for other uses.
    Scientists are also studying many plants including new species and rediscovered ones too for medicinal qualities.Some of these large mammals may also eat plants that have these qualities too.

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