Podcast: Saving the singing rhino

Sumatran rhinos are one of the most endangered large mammals on the planet, with no more than 80 left in the wild.  Small in stature and docile by nature, they sport a coat of fur and sing songs reminiscent of a whale or dolphin. Original photo as published by Mongabay.

Mongabay | November 5, 2020 

Read the original story here and listen to the podcast

Sumatran rhinos are one of the most endangered large mammals on the planet, with no more than 80 left in the wild.  Small in stature and docile by nature, they sport a coat of fur and sing songs reminiscent of a whale or dolphin.

The Sumatran rhino, like the land that it inhabits, is unlike anything else in this world: small in stature and docile by nature, the animal sports a coat of black fur and sing songs like a dolphin. In other words, this ancient species surprises and enchants anyone lucky enough to encounter it.

But Sumatran rhinos are also one of the most endangered large mammals on the planet. While its population is difficult to pinpoint, experts estimate there could be as many as 80 – or as few as 30 – still in the wild, leaving their future in doubt.

To understand the wonder and worry associated with this species, Mongabay Explores podcast host Mike DiGirolamo speaks with two guests, Wulan Pusparini and Jeremy Hance, about the unique challenges of conserving them, what is being done for them currently, and what needs to happen in order to save them from extinction.

Pusparini studied Sumatran rhinos as a species conservation specialist with the Wildlife Conservation Society before pursuing her Ph.D. in Environmental Conservation at Oxford University, while Hance is Mongabay’s senior correspondent, who’s traveled Sumatra extensively to cover the species (and is the author of a new book about such travels, “Baggage“).

Speaking with them sheds light on a complicated history of spoiled efforts, delayed action, breakthroughs in conservation and breeding practices, and impactful efforts that are holding the line for this extremely vulnerable mammal. To learn more, one can also read Mongabay’s twin series authored by Hance on the conservation efforts and the scientific advances made in their captive breeding, here:

Mongabay Explores is a special podcast series that speaks with experts from the field working to protect the critically threatened forests and wildlife of Sumatra. It is published bi-weekly opposite the main podcast, and dives into the unique beauty and key issues of this one of a kind landscape by speaking with key people working to protect it. Episode 1, where we speak with a Goldman Prize winner from Sumatra, Rudi Putra, can be heard here.

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Music heard during this episode was by Sorbatua Siallagan, chief of the Dolok Parmonangan Indigenous community. The song is called “Gondang  tu Mulajadi,” where Gondang means ‘music’ and also ‘prayer,’ and Mulajadi means God. This kind of music is typically performed when Indigenous communities in Batak areas of Sumatra conduct rituals. Series theme music heard at the podcast’s beginning and end is called “Putri Tangguk” and was licensed via Pond5.

Sounds of Sumatran rhinos heard during the show courtesy of Save the Rhino International.

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Listen to the previous Mongabay Explores series about a looming salamander pandemic in North America here, here, and here.