The Sumatran Rhino: On the Verge of Extinction

RhinocerosThe Sumatran Rhinoceros, one of the rarest species of rhino, is on the verge of extinction. The critically endangered species is clinging on to small populations with an undetermined amount of breeding females, making the chances of survival in an increasingly dangerous world even slimmer.

Habitat Protection

Scientists from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, together with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Indonesia Program, are currently carrying out an island-wide survey of the last population of rhinos. Their study, for the first time, identifies the need to protect the forests, with the authors saying it is “irreplaceable for saving critically endangered species.”

The study identified five specific areas that are critical to saving these endangered animals, but they are only reporting a general overall estimate of occupancy to reduce the risk of poaching. The researchers add that Indonesia should formally establish five “Intensive Protection Zones” to ensure zero peaching by “significantly scaling-up law enforcement efforts” as well as safeguarding the environment.

They also suggest that the new roads planned to be built near the protection zones be abandoned. These would require a vast amount of space cleared, which is ultimately integral to the survival of the species.

High Possibility of Extinction

black-rhinocerosThe governments recognize that the “Sumatran rhino is likely to go extinct if no actions are taken, as happened with the last Javan Rhino in Vietnam in 2010.” The efforts are further confounded by the species’ natural elusiveness and their increasingly low population number.

Current estimates put the rhinos’ numbers between 87 to 179, with sub-populations from 2 to 50 rhinos. This is extremely small for such a large specie, and is teetering into full-blown extinction. The demand for their horns in traditional Chinese medicine played a huge part in their reduced numbers, and there are currently no viable populations outside of Sumatra.

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Recently, the Cincinnati Zoo had issued a countdown for anyone wanting to see the last Sumatran Rhino in the Western Hemisphere. The zoo announced that by October 29, Harapan, the Sumatran Rhino, will be sent on a mission to Southeast Asia to mate and help preserve his critically endangered species.

The Sumatran Rhinoceros is a descendant of Ice Age woolly rhinos that are now extinct. Their numbers have fallen by 90% since the mid-1980s due to the destruction of their forests as well as the increasing demand for their prized horns. The specie is well-known for its relatively short horns, ancient appearance, as well as the signature hairs that line the sides of the bodies, a remnant of its Ice Age ancestry.