The birth of a female Sumatran rhino – a species with less than 80 individuals living in the wild – at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia was recently announced by the government of Indonesia.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is the most threatened out of the 5 rhino species that are still around. It’s classified as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
The species was once thriving in the rainforests and swamps of China, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and India. However, after the death of the last 2 known Sumatran rhinos of Malaysia in 2019, members of the species can now only be found in Indonesia. Mostly due to poaching epidemics, their populations have declined drastically in the last 30 years: it’s estimated that there are less than 80 of them left in the wild, and only 8 in captivity.
A little glimmer of hope is the birth of a calf at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Indonesia – for the first time in the Sanctuary’s 26 year long history.
The SRS was established to maintain the survival of the Sumatran rhino and save it from extinction. Today it’s the only place where the species can breed naturally with the help of the latest technological advances, and experts from around the world. At SRS, the remaining Sumatran rhinos receive veterinary care and food, and live in large, open forest areas, identical to their natural habitat.
Mr. Wiratno, the Director General of Natural Resources and Ecosystem Conservation of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, announced that the mother is Rosa, and the father is Andatu, who himself was born in the conservation breeding program as well. The birth of the baby rhino was truly a huge success, since the mother, Rosa, had lost 8 pregnancies before this birth. The occasion also marks the first time a Sumatran rhino was born from a parent, who was part of the conservation breeding program.
“The birth of the Sumatran rhino is good news amid the efforts of the Indonesian government and partners to increase the Sumatran rhino population,” said Wiratno. “My deep gratitude for the work of the team of veterinarians and keepers who have continuously monitored the development of rhino Rosa’s pregnancy and postnatal care.”
While most Sumatran rhinos are shy and solitary animals, Rosa is quite outgoing compared to other members of her species. From 2003, Rhino Protection Units in western Sumatra began receiving reports about a young rhino in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park wandering around villages and main roads. Even though Sumatran rhinos are known to avoid humans no matter what, Rosa became used to living and feeding around humans.
A special unit was assigned to observe and protect her. But after several discussions, rangers, park officials, and other authorities believed her behavior put her at risk, so they decided to move her to the SRS. Fortunately, Rosa adapted very well to her life at the sanctuary, and she’s been living there happily ever since.
The name of the newborn hasn’t been revealed yet, but the International Rhino Foundation will continue to provide regular updates on Rosa and her calf. So, a name revealing announcement could come any day now.
While it takes serious work and persistence to save a species that is on the brink of extinction, the birth of this little one means there’s hope for the Sumatran rhinos, and we hope to see them thrive once again. According to Nina Fascione, Executive Director at the International Rhino Foundation, every single individual makes a huge difference, since the remaining Sumatran rhino populations are so small.
“We will do everything possible to ensure the future of this species that Rosa and her calf represent,” she said.
Sources: 1, 2, 3