After the discovery of fresh footprints of a Sumatran rhinoceros in Kalimantan, Borneo, early this year, a joint research team that included members from WWF-Indonesia and the district authorities of Kutai Barat, East Kalimantan, have captured footage — using video camera traps — of the rare Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) in East Kalimantan. The video is the fruit of three months of research that collected footage from 16 video camera traps. The team is delighted to have secured the first known visual evidence of the Sumatran rhino in Kalimantan.
The video was revealed by Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan at the opening of the Asian Rhino Range States Ministerial Meeting in Bandar Lampung, Sumatra. This two day meeting ended today and was attended by government representation from Bhutan, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, and Nepal. Zulkifli Hasan said: “This finding represents the hard work of many parties, and will hopefully contribute to achieving Indonesia’s target of three percent per year rhino population growth.” He emphasised that all parties need to immediately begin working together to develop a scientific estimate of all the remaining Sumatran rhino populations in Kalimantan, and to implement measures to conserve the species – particularly by strengthening the protection and security of the rhinos and their habitats.
The remarkable evidence from the camera traps includes footage of a rhino wallowing in the mud to keep its body temperature cool and a rhino walking in search of food. The rhino footage, captured on June 23, June 30 and August 3, is believed to show different rhinos although confirmation of this will require further study:
Nazir Foead, Conservation Director of WWF-Indonesia, said, “To ensure the protection of the species, a joint monitoring team from the Kutai Barat administration, Rhino Protection Unit, and WWF have been conducting regular patrols around the area. WWF calls on all parties, in Indonesia and around the world, to immediately join the effort to conserve the Indonesian rhinoceros”.
Commenting on the findings, the district head of West Kutai, Ismael Thomas SH. M. Si., noted “The local administration is fully supporting these conservation activities in West Kutai. We are drafting further laws to protect endangered animals, including these rhinos.”
Bandar Lampung Declaration
The two days of negotiations at the Asian Rhino Range States Meeting held in Bandar Lampung, Indonesia, led to an agreement regarding a common action plan with the aim of increasing the populations of Asian Rhino species by at least 3% annually by 2020. This agreement is called the Bandar Lampung Declaration, and is considered a major step towards Asian Rhino Recovery.
The commitment outlines specific conservation actions that are necessary to secure a steady growth rate of all three Asian Rhino species – Sumatran, Javan and Greater One-horned. These include improving the biological management and monitoring of the species, strengthening the protection of their habitats, performing strict anti-poaching operations, introducing tougher penalties for those that illegally kill Asian Rhinos, and maintaining the ban in the international trade of all rhino products.
The good news for this animal species on the brink of extinction, however, should not have been revealed by WWF with the publication of the footage, yet. Says Erik Meijaard, a researcher who has worked in Indonesia for over 20 years. Meijaard told mongabay.com: