Conservationists have reported the first live sighting of a Sumatran rhino in Indonesian Borneo in over 40 years!
The female rhino was safely captured in a pit-trap East Kalimantan on 12 March before being moved to a protected forest, with plans for a new breeding population. The species was thought to be extinct in Kalimantan until 2013, when researchers discovered evidence of the species surviving in the area from footprints and camera traps.
Sumatran rhinos were once widespread across South-east Asia; however the species has been wiped out from its former range due to poaching and habitat loss. Sumatran rhinos are now critically endangered with fewer than 100 individuals estimated to survive, virtually all of them in the Indonesian island of Sumatra (only three animals remain in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo). The wild population of Sumatran rhinos in the Malaysian part of Borneo was declared extinct last year.
There are four rhinos which have been positively identified in central Kalimantan and one was captured on 12 March and moved to a temporary boma, where keepers and veterinarians are caring for it. There are currently six rhinos at the well-established Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia. Most rhino experts agree that it would best if the newly captured female were immediately moved there, where she would be able to mate with Andalas or his younger brother Harapan. In May this year, another rhino calf is expected to be born at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary to a pregnant Sumatran rhino named Ratu
In further good news for Asian rhinos, Indonesian officials have reported that seven Javan rhinos were born in Ujung Kulon National Park during 2015. This is the largest number of Javan rhinos born in a single year in the country, after years of population decline. The birth of the new calves brings the Javan rhino population up to 63, from the 60 announced in September 2015.
The growth in the Javan rhino population has been attributed to the expansion of Javan rhino’s habitat through the creation of the Javan Rhino Study and Conservation Area. For years, teams have been working to establish the 5,000 hectare sanctuary through the construction of an 8 km perimeter fence to prevent human encroachment and the clearing of the invasive Arenga palm to allow native rhino food plants to recolonise the forests.
Photo credits: IRF, Nico van Strein, Alain Compost