Rescue of Critically Endangered Sumatran Rhino Brings New Hope for the Species

KUTAI BARAT, 28 November 2018: The Government of Indonesia and Sumatran Rhino Rescue, a groundbreaking alliance of leading international conservation organizations have successfully rescued and relocated a critically endangered but healthy female rhino to a secure facility in Kalimantan with the support of local partners. The rescue operation is the first major activity of an expanded conservation breeding program that aims to save the species from imminent extinction and eventually increase populations of Sumatran rhino to numbers that allow them to be returned to the wild.

The Sumatran rhinoceros was transported by truck from the rescue site in West Kutai, to a temporary holding facility in Hutan Lindung Kelian Lestari (Kelian Lestari Protected Forest) both in the District Kutai Barat, East Kalimantan Province of Indonesia.

The Sumatran rhino is one of the most endangered large mammals on the planet. With fewer than 80 Sumatran rhinos left in the world, the species faces a crisis point. After decades of poaching and habitat loss, the greatest threat facing the species is the distance that separates their small populations. Unable to easily find mates, many breeding age Sumatran rhinos risk infertility as a result of extended isolation. In their current fragmented and dispersed pockets across two vast Indonesian islands, hope for their survival depends on conservationists’ ability to find and safely relocate them to specialized facilities designed for their care.

Mr. Wiratno, the DG of Conservation of Biodiversity and Ecosystem, Minister of Forestry and Environment, said:

“This translocation exercise is an essential first step in a wider effort to rescue the Sumatran Rhino, as they are now in a critical situation. The Government of Indonesia is fully committed not just to the captive breeding effort now underway but to safeguarding the natural habitat of the Sumatran rhino with the hope of eventually re-introducing a healthy population of animals into the wild.”

Jon Paul Rodríguez, Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission, believes that:

“The dedication of the Indonesian government to this project, combined with the collaborative spirit that characterizes the Sumatran Rhino Rescue effort and the knowledge built over the last few decades on Sumatran rhinos in captivity and in the wild, allow us to affirm that we have the tools to take this project forward successfully. Careful and patient planning were key in this week’s rescue, qualities that will continue to prove fundamental in the months to come.”

A team of experts led by WWF, a founding Sumatran Rhino Rescue partner supported the government of Indonesia in the search and rescue operations in Kalimantan, working to ensure that the rhino remained safe and healthy throughout the capture and relocation process.

Rizal Malik, CEO WWF-Indonesia, said:

 “There’s still a long road ahead but today the future of the Sumatran rhino is looking brighter. The Sumatran rhino is an integral part of our heritage; we simply can’t stand by and watch the species disappear. We support the Government of Indonesia in taking this bold conservation approach before it’s too late. This particular rhino was in a grave danger due to her degraded habitat. We know that even with years of preparation and some of the greatest experts in rhino conservation these operations can prove risky. But in such dire circumstances, we’re left with little choice. While risks remain for this rhino, with her safe arrival at the sanctuary, we’re cautiously optimistic, and our dedicated team will continue with round-the-clock care as she settles into her new home.“

Over the next weeks and months, a team of veterinarians and animal husbandry experts will monitor and care for this rhino as she adapts to her new surroundings. The team will work to ensure her safety and health in this new environment, at which point they will begin work to determine her breeding viability.



Images are available HERE