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New hope for Suma­tran rhino in Kali­man­tan, Borneo

pub­lished 25 March 2016 | mod­i­fied 25 March 2016

Sumatran rhino in KalimantanWWF researchers are cel­e­brat­ing the first live sight­ing of a Suma­tran rhi­noc­eros in Kali­man­tan, the Indone­sia part of Bor­neo, since it was thought to be extinct there. This is also the first phys­i­cal con­tact with the species in the area for over 40 years and is a major mile­stone for rhino con­ser­va­tion in Indonesia.

The female Suma­tran rhino, which is esti­mated to be between four and five years old, was safely cap­tured in a pit trap in Kutai Barat in East Kali­man­tan on 12 March.

This is an excit­ing dis­cov­ery and a major con­ser­va­tion success
Dr Efran­s­jah, CEO of WWF-​Indonesia »

We now have proof that a species once thought extinct in Kali­man­tan still roams the forests, and we will now strengthen our efforts to pro­tect this extra­or­di­nary species,” said Efransjah.

In 2013, a WWF sur­vey team first found evi­dence that the species was not extinct in Kali­man­tan by iden­ti­fy­ing foot­prints and cap­tur­ing an image of a rhino on a cam­era trap in the same for­est. Since then, 15 Suma­tran rhi­nos have been iden­ti­fied in three pop­u­la­tions in Kutai Barat.

Footage of the sur­vey team iden­ti­fy­ing mark­ings from a rhino horn in the mud and on tree trunks:

(Source: WWF-​Indonesia)

The Suma­tran rhino (Dicerorhi­nus suma­tren­sis) is the small­est of the two rhino species that exist in Indone­sia, and listed as Crit­i­cally Endan­gered by the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species™. The other one being the Javan rhino (Rhi­noc­eros sondaicus), which only sur­vives in Ujung Kulon National Park and is Crit­i­cally Endan­gered as well.

It is esti­mated that less than 100 Suma­tran rhi­nos remain in the wild, mainly on the island of Suma­tra. The rhi­nos face seri­ous threats from poach­ing, and habi­tat loss due to min­ing, plan­ta­tions and log­ging. The wild pop­u­la­tion of Suma­tran rhi­nos in the Malaysian part of Bor­neo was declared extinct last year.

The cap­tured female rhino is being held in a tem­po­rary enclo­sure before being translo­cated by heli­copter to a new home — a pro­tected for­est about 150 km from the cap­ture site. The rhino’s new home is envi­sioned as the sec­ond Suma­tran Rhino Sanc­tu­ary in Indone­sia. Way Kam­bas National Park in Suma­tra is the other rhino sanc­tu­ary, where a healthy male Suma­tran rhino calf was born in 2012.

Suma­tran rhino calf born at Way Kam­bas National Park rhino sanc­tu­ary in 2012:
The new­born was the off­spring of a wild female Suma­tran rhino and a male that was born at the Cincin­nati Zoo in the U.S in 2001. The male was flown to his ances­tral home, Suma­tra, in 2007 in hopes that he would breed with one of the rhino sanctuary’s three females. The new baby was only the fourth Suma­tran rhino born in cap­tiv­ity in the past cen­tury, and the first one to be born in Indonesia.

(Source: Inter­na­tional Rhino Foundation)

This is a race against time for rhino con­ser­va­tion. Pro­vid­ing a safe home is the only hope for the the sur­vival of the Suma­tran rhino for many gen­er­a­tions to come,” said Dr Efran­s­jah. “WWF will work con­tin­u­ously with the Suma­tran rhino con­ser­va­tion team for the pro­tec­tion of the Suma­tran rhino pop­u­la­tion in Kalimantan.”

Work­ing as part of the Suma­tran Rhino Con­ser­va­tion Team estab­lished by the Indone­sia Min­istry of Envi­ron­ment and Forestry, WWF and other team mem­bers are work­ing to translo­cate at least three rhi­nos from their cur­rent habi­tat to the sanc­tu­ary, where they will be safer and can estab­lish a breed­ing population.

This unprece­dented dis­cov­ery and unpar­al­leled oper­a­tion boosts our hope to save one of the most endan­gered species and an iconic sym­bol of the majes­tic Asian rain­forests. This is an excit­ing moment in our efforts to save the world’s amaz­ing bio­di­ver­sity,” said Marco Lam­ber­tini, Direc­tor Gen­eral of WWF International.

The entire WWF net­work com­mends the Indone­sian Gov­ern­ment, WWF-​Indonesia and all part­ners involved for their com­mit­ment and for this ground-​breaking oper­a­tion,” added Lambertini.

(Source: WWF Indone­sia press release, 23.03.2016)

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