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Suma­tran rhi­nos still exist, cam­era traps in Kali­man­tan prove it!

pub­lished 03 Octo­ber 2013 | mod­i­fied 13 Sep­tem­ber 2014

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.

Sumatran rhino Kalimantan

This phys­i­cal evi­dence is very impor­tant, as it forms the basis to develop and imple­ment more com­pre­hen­sive con­ser­va­tion efforts for the Indone­sian rhinoceros
Forestry Min­is­ter Zulk­i­fli Hasan »

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 num­ber of sur­viv­ing Asian Rhi­nos, espe­cially of Javan and Suma­tran Rhi­nos, is cur­rently so low that main­tain­ing their pop­u­la­tions is not enough to secure their sur­vival. What we need to see is the recov­ery of these species and a steady increase of their pop­u­la­tions. See­ing all Asian Rhino range states agree on a com­mon and very spe­cific action plan is a major step towards achiev­ing this goal.
(Simon Stu­art, Chair of IUCN Species Sur­vival Commission)

The Suma­tran Rhino (Dicerorhi­nus suma­tren­sis) is listed as Crit­i­cally Endan­gered on The IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species™ and its total pop­u­la­tion could be fewer than 100 indi­vid­u­als. An esti­mated 50 indi­vid­u­als of the Javan Rhino (Rhi­noc­eros sondaicus), also listed as Crit­i­cally Endan­gered, sur­vive in Java’s Ujung Kulon National Park. The Greater One-​horned Rhino (Rhi­noc­eros uni­cor­nis), with esti­mated 3,339 indi­vid­u­als mainly in India and Nepal, is listed as Vul­ner­a­ble and could eas­ily be lost if cur­rent trends in the illicit trade in rhino horn continue.

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:

The last thing those rhi­nos need is pub­lic­ity. What WWF should have done is keep quiet, lobby in the back­ground for the pro­tec­tion of the for­est and the estab­lish­ment of effec­tive con­ser­va­tion management…Only, when every­thing was in place to deliver long-​term effec­tive man­age­ment with expe­ri­enced and prefer­ably well-​heeled con­ser­va­tion part­ners, then WWF could have con­sid­ered announc­ing that they had effec­tively pro­tected the last rhi­nos of Kali­man­tan for over 10 years and that the pop­u­la­tion had boomed. What they are doing now is seek­ing to fast-​track solu­tions, but such quick solu­tions do not work in Indone­sia. And with a few rhi­nos in their area, the mar­gin for error is zero.

(Source: WWF-​Indonesia press release, 02.10.2013; IUCN news release, 03.10.2013; Mongabay​.com, 09.10.2013))

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