Rare rhinos spotted in the wild for the first time in 26 years
If you are following the news these days, you likely know that rhinos are in crisis.
Experts agree that the rampant illegal killing of black and white rhinos in Africa for their horns is at a point where the global community must band together to fight the poaching of this species, or else risk losing this incredible group of animals during our lifetime.
And looking at the raw numbers alone, the situation appears even more dire for the three remaining Asian rhino species – all of which have perilously low numbers. But even though all five surviving rhino species are facing a precarious future, I am happy to report some good news from one of the rarest of these rhino species: It was confirmed late this summer that seven extremely elusive Sumatran rhinos were recorded in a national park in Indonesia—the first sighting there in 26 years.
The announcement followed the fourth-ever captive birth of a Sumatran rhino earlier in the summer in a Southeast Asian breeding facility. I personally visited this particular research and conservation breeding facility in June as part of a broader trip to meet with international tapir specialists and other wildlife conservationists in the region (tapirs are a large mammal closely related to rhinos, and found in Southeast Asia, as well as Central and South America).
While there, I was lucky enough to see the pregnant female Sumatran rhino (from a respectful distance) at the Way Kambas National Park on the island of Sumatra. Several months later she gave birth to a healthy male rhino calf named Andatu (a combination of his parent’s names and a shortened version of the Indonesian expression for “Gift of god”).
With the more recent good news, a team of forest rangers from the Leuser International Foundation released the news this summer that they had spotted tracks of the nearly extinct, two-horned wild Sumatran rhinos while conducting a tiger survey in a forest in Aceh province, Sumatra. The rhinos were later captured in photographs from a series of camera traps placed where the tracks had been found.
The Sumatran rhino is the smallest of the surviving rhino species, and was declared critically endangered in 1996. There are only believed to be 200 or fewer Sumatran rhinos left in the wild, so these new sightings were significant.
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