Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Last Stand for Wild Sumatran Rhinos

Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) are the rarest species of rhino still living in the wild.  It is the only extant member of the genus Dicerorhinus that dates back to the early Miocene.Their rain forest habitat has been devastated by cultivation for agricultural products like palm oil, and the rhino has been slaughtered for its two horns. Their numbers have dwindled so low that conservationists are recommending the remaining survivors be consolidated into one population and guarded around the clock. A survey by the University of Massachusetts--Amherst, and the Wildlife Conservation Society Indonesia Program has identified for the first time priority protection zones that are essential to survival and small, scattered populations that should be consolidated if they are to be genetically viable. The study's lead author says the Sumatran rhino can still be saved in the wild, but significant increases in protection are needed. Five zones critical to saving the rhino need to have significantly stepped-up law enforcement efforts and planned roads into these areas must be abandoned.

London Zoo's 'Begum', 1872
Vietnam's Javan rhino went extinct in the wild in 2010. The same fate awaits the Sumatran if new efforts to protect it from the deprivations of poachers and destruction of its rainforest home.  The species is already extinct in Sabah and Malaysia. In the 200 years since the Sumatran was first described to science, its range has contracted from a broad swath of Southeast Asia to just three areas on the island of Sumatra and one in Kalimantan. There are less than 100 Sumatran rhinos as of 2013 surviving in the wild.  Forty Sumatran rhinos were brought into captivity in the 1980s with the goal being preservation of the species, but the program was a disaster according to the IUCN.  Most of the rhinos died in captivity and no offspring were produced for twenty years. Cincinnati Zoo has achieved several successful conceptions. Watch this WWF Australia video to know more: