National Geographic | September 21, 2019
On World Rhino Day (September 22), Sumatran Rhino Rescue, a groundbreaking, collaborative approach to conservation, celebrates its first anniversary. In support of the government of Indonesia’s Emergency Action Plan to save the Sumatran rhino, Sumatran Rhino Rescue brings international and Indonesian NGOs together to create and implement a collaborative plan to save the species, working hand in hand with on-the-ground partners and coordinating closely with leaders in government.
The Sumatran rhinoceros has lived throughout Southeast Asia for millennia. But over the past century, its population has been nearly erased as a result of poaching and habitat loss. Today there are fewer than 80 Sumatran rhinos left in the world. Hanging on to existence in 10 fragmented subpopulations across two islands, this rhino is so rare that few people have ever seen one in the wild. Separated by mountainous terrain, Sumatran rhinos now struggle to find mates in the wild to propagate their next generation.
In its first year, Sumatran Rhino Rescue has made important progress toward saving the Sumatran rhino from the brink of extinction:
We successfully rescued and relocated a critically endangered but healthy female rhino from an isolated region in Indonesian Borneo to a secure facility in Kalimantan.
Our partners at the International Rhino Foundation and Yayasan Badak Indonesia completed an expansion of the Way Kambas Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS), which will provide space for an additional five rhinos.
Our team secured approvals to build a new SRS in northern Sumatra, which will provide additional homes for rhinos rescued from the wild.
We created the first-ever 3D scan of resident rhino Harapan at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park, Indonesia. The scan is being used as an education and outreach tool to raise public awareness of the species.
We created the Sumatran Rhino Husbandry and Propagation Expert Advisory Board to guide the implementation of the Emergency Action Plan, ultimately helping the government of Indonesia maximize population growth and oversee the care of Sumatran rhinos in the sanctuaries.
Sumatran Rhino Rescue welcomed the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Save the Rhino International Zoological-Botanical Garden Stuttgart, Wilhelma and Taronga Zoo Sydney as strategic partners to the groundbreaking effort to save the Sumatran rhino. These partners have a long history of conservation efforts to protect and care for many species of rhinos from Asia and Africa. Notably, scientific breakthroughs at the Cincinnati Zoo led to the first Sumatran rhino calf bred and born in a conservation breeding program in 112 years.
Looking forward, our second year represents a critical time in our efforts to save the Sumatran rhino. Over the next year, we aim to carry out a number of major activities to locate rhinos and incorporate them into the national breeding program. But an undertaking such as this requires significant investment. Our activities next year will only be possible with support from organizations and individuals around the world. Here are a few of the pressing activities we have planned in the coming year:
There are three rhinos we’ve identified that are in need of rescue in the next year. Relocating rhinos from the wild costs about $800,000 per rhino.
We urgently need to find more rhinos before it’s too late. Our systematic approach requires surveys of around 250 individual areas of Indonesia’s forests. Each survey costs approximately $6,000, meaning we will need $1.5 million to carry out these critical search efforts.
We need to build and expand the facilities designed for caring for and breeding Sumatran rhinos. To begin work to build one brand new Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary and expand another will cost $2.8 million.
We can’t do this alone and need supporters and partners from around the world to do what they can to help save this unique and lovable species.
For more information and to learn how to contribute, visit www.sumatranrhinorescue.org.