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Foot­prints of Suma­tran Rhi­nos dis­cov­ered in Borneo

pub­lished 30 March 2013 | mod­i­fied 08 March 2014

Sumatran RhinocerosA team from World Wildlife Fund (WWF)‘s Indone­sia office and the local Forestry Ministry’s Nat­ural Resources Con­ser­va­tion Agency have dis­cov­ered fresh foot­prints sim­i­lar to those of an extremely rare rhi­noc­eros thought extinct from the area. The team came across the foot­prints while con­duct­ing an orang­utan search in an area in West Kutai Dis­trict, East Kali­man­tan, in Bor­neo.

WWF-​Indonesia, the West Kutai Forestry Agency, Mulawar­man Uni­ver­sity and local experts then launched a follow-​up sur­vey to study the rhino tracks. Along with sev­eral foot­prints, the sur­vey team iden­ti­fied mark­ings from a rhino horn in the mud and on tree trunks, and dis­cov­ered signs of rhino’s feed­ing.

It is excit­ing news to find a pop­u­la­tion in an area where the species was long thought extinct
Bar­ney Long, WWF’s Asian species expert »

Based on the find­ings and his­tor­i­cal records of rhi­nos in East Kali­man­tan, the foot­prints have been sci­en­tif­i­cally con­firmed as belong­ing to the Suma­tran Rhino (Dicerorhi­nus suma­tren­sis) by rhino experts from WWF-​Indonesia and the Mulawar­man University’s School of Forestry’s Can­dra D. Boer.

The sur­vey team also iden­ti­fied more than 20 plant species that rhi­nos eat, includ­ing Dil­lenia supru­ti­cosa, Glochid­ion glomemeru­la­tum and Nblia Japan­ica.

Experts involved with the sur­vey stated that these find­ings show proof of the rhi­nos’ pres­ence, although there was no direct evi­dence in the form of a visual sight­ing. It is also not pos­si­ble to con­firm at this point in time whether these signs were made by a few rhi­nos or just one remain­ing indi­vid­ual.

It is excit­ing news to find a pop­u­la­tion in an area where the species was long thought extinct,” said Bar­ney Long, WWF’s Asian species expert. “How­ever, we must remain vig­i­lant in our efforts to pre­serve every indi­vid­ual of the species as its sur­vival is cur­rently hang­ing from the thinnest thread.”

This is a very impor­tant find­ing to the world, and espe­cially to Indonesia’s con­ser­va­tion work, as this serves as a new record on the pres­ence of Suma­tran rhi­nos in East Kali­man­tan and espe­cially in West Kutai,” said Bam­bang Noviyanto, the direc­tor for bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion at the Forestry Min­istry. “Infor­ma­tion sur­round­ing the pres­ence becomes impor­tant to draft strate­gies to pro­tect the pop­u­la­tion, if it is found to be viable and breed­ing, and to edu­cate [peo­ple liv­ing around] the habi­tat wherein [traces] of rhi­nos have been found,” con­tin­ued Bam­bang. In the future, more coop­er­a­tion is needed with many par­ties, includ­ing local com­mu­ni­ties, cor­po­ra­tions and oth­ers, to deter­mine cor­rect mea­sures to sup­port con­ser­va­tion efforts of Suma­tran rhi­nos in Kali­man­tan.

Footage of the sur­vey team iden­ti­fy­ing mark­ings from a rhino horn in the mud and on tree trunks (credit WWF-​Indonesia):

WWF-​Indonesia con­ser­va­tion direc­tor Nazir Foead said, “WWF-​Indonesia together with all stake­hold­ers will con­duct a follow-​up and more com­pre­hen­sive sur­vey to map rhi­nos’ habi­tat pref­er­ence and their pop­u­la­tion in West Kutai.” Nazir added, “Based on the result of this sur­vey, joint strate­gies and com­pre­hen­sive and holis­tic action plans need to be imme­di­ately for­mu­lated.” Nazir fur­ther said con­ser­va­tion plan and efforts for Suma­tran Rhi­nos needed to be long-​term, and there­fore sus­tain­able fund­ing was needed, partly to ensure that the work also ben­e­fit peo­ple liv­ing around the rhi­nos’ habi­tat.

Rhi­nos, dol­phins, clouded leop­ards and local buf­falo are among God’s cre­ations that are get­ting rare, but appar­ently they’re still alive in West Kutai
(Ismael Thomas SH. M.Si, head of the West Kutai dis­trict)

Ismael added, “We must pro­tect them, and the com­mu­ni­ties must live in har­mony with nature.” Accord­ing to Ismael, West Kutai stores high bio­di­ver­sity and is an impor­tant part of Heart of Bor­neo, there­fore the West Kutai admin­is­tra­tion is com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing and sav­ing rhi­nos, and will imme­di­ately issue a By law on Endan­gered Ani­mal and Plant Pro­tec­tion. In part­ner­ship with WWF Indone­sia, the local gov­ern­ment will form a team to study and inves­ti­gate the pres­ence of the ani­mals and to decide suit­able short and long terms con­ser­va­tion poli­cies and programs.

Suma­tran Rhi­nos have not been found in Kali­man­tan since the early 1990s, and have long thought to be extinct in Kali­man­tan. Suma­tran rhi­nos have been clas­si­fied as Crit­i­cally Endan­gered accord­ing the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species™.

More infor­ma­tion on Suma­tra Rhi­nos and what WWF is doing to pro­tect them, can be found here .

(Source: WWF Press Release, 28.03.2013)

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