Sumatran Rhino


  • Status
    Critically Endangered
  • Population
    Around 40
  • Scientific Name
    Dicerorhinus sumatrensis
  • Height
    3.3-5 feet
  • Weight
    1,320 -2,090 pounds
  • Length
    6.5-13 feet
  • Habitats
    Dense highland and lowland tropical and sub-tropical forests
Population distribution of the Sumatran Rhino

Population distribution of the Sumatran Rhino (Click for larger view)

Sumatran rhinos are the smallest of the living rhinoceroses and the only Asian rhino with two horns. They are covered with long hair and are more closely related to the extinct woolly rhinos than any of the other rhino species alive today. Calves are born with a dense covering that turns reddish-brown in young adults and becomes sparse, bristly and almost black in older animals. Sumatran rhinos compete with the Javan rhino for the unenviable title of most threatened rhino species. While surviving in possibly greater numbers than the Javan rhino, Sumatran rhinos are more threatened due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The remaining animals survive in small, fragmented non-viable populations, and with limited possibilities to find each other to breed, its population decline continues. Just two captive females have reproduced in the last 15 years.

The Sumatran rhino once roamed as far away as the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas in Bhutan and eastern India, through Myanmar, Thailand, possibly to Vietnam and China, and south through the Malay Peninsula. Today, the species only survives on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Experts believe the third subspecies is probably extinct.


Ancient Survivors

Ensuring a future for one of the world's oldest mammals
Rhinos at sunrise

Why They Matter

  • In all rhino conservation areas, there are other valuable plants and animals. Protecting rhinos helps maintain other animal and plant life in the area and keeps ecosystems healthy.


  • Population Around 40
  • Extinction Risk Critically Endangered
    1. EX

      No reasonable doubt that the last individual has died

    2. EW
      Extinct in the Wild

      Known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population

    3. CR
      Critically Endangered

      Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the Wild

    4. EN

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    5. VU

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    6. NT
      Near Threatened

      Likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future

    7. LC
      Least Concern

      Does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened

Sumatran Rhino

Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in Sumatra is thought to have one of the largest populations of Sumatran rhinos.

Small Population Size and Isolation

Due to small numbers, low probability of breeding pairs encountering one other, and reproductive problems among aging females, we believe breeding among wild Sumatran rhinos to be minimal in most locations. Most—if not all—of the remaining sub-populations are too small to be viable long-term breeding populations.


Illegal Wildlife Trade

Sumatran Rhino

Medicines containing rhino horn.

Growing consumer demand for rhino horn has driven the unsustainable increase in poaching across Africa and Asia. Rhino horn is coveted in parts of Asia for its purported medicinal qualities and as an ornament, often carved, which connotes social status and prestige.

China and Vietnam are the two largest consumer markets for rhino horn. Demand in China began escalating in the 1990s in tandem with booming economic growth. Investigations by TRAFFIC, the world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring network, and WWF reveal that use of rhino horn in traditional medicine persists in many countries.

Habitat Loss

Sumatran rhino habitat is being lost or degraded by invasive species, road construction, and encroachment for agricultural expansion. For example, Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in Sumatra is losing forest cover due to conversion for coffee and rice by illegal settlers.

Lack of Protection

Protection is insufficient in existing protected areas. When rhinos move outside of protected areas, communities are not sufficiently engaged or incentivized to protect them.

What WWF Is Doing

Sumatran Rhino

To save the Sumatran rhino, WWF is working to grow population numbers by fighting wildlife crime and protecting their habitat. We’re consolidating the remaining animals into a small number of intensively managed sites, while prioritizing captive breeding as a conservation approach.

Supporting Rhino Protection Units

WWF supports rangers working to protect rhinos in Bukit Barisan Selatan, one of the most biologically rich areas on Earth, and Way Kambas National Park, a crucial habitat for this species. WWF is also looking to shore up Rhino Protection Units on the island of Kalimantan, where Sumatran rhinos were recently re-discovered.

Monitoring Rhino Distribution and Population Size

WWF works to identify the best scientific methods to monitor rhino populations in the wild, analyze data, and train survey teams. We use the most recent technologies to complete our work, such as camera traps and environmental DNA.

Managing Populations

WWF works with the Indonesian government and other organizations to assess how at risk each sub-population is, and to identify immediate protection needs. WWF also supports the establishment of “Intensive Protection Zones” that receive enhanced enforcement, along with captive breeding facilities to help safely grow population numbers. We’re moving rhinos that are isolated or in small groups and fragile populations to a place that has successfully retained a larger number of animals.

Engaging with Key Governments and Partners

WWF continues engaging with high-level government officials and partners to create a long-term recovery plan. We collaborate with US-based and global conservation organizations, including the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission and Asian Rhino Specialist Group, the International Rhino Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Global Wildlife Conservation.

Rescuing Sumatran Rhinos

In support of the Government of Indonesia’s efforts, WWF, Global Wildlife Conservation, International Rhino Foundation, International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the National Geographic Society, have joined together with Indonesian partners on-the-ground to launch a Sumatran Rhino Rescue effort. Beginning in 2018, this alliance of organizations aims to relocate the widely dispersed rhino populations from the wild to managed breeding facilities designed specifically for their care. In addition to securing the remaining rhino population, the effort will develop the infrastructure to care for the rhinos and grow their numbers population of Sumatran rhinos. Learn more.


  • Sumatran Rhino Rescue Alliance

    In support of the Government of Indonesia’s efforts, WWF, Global Wildlife Conservation, International Rhino Foundation, International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the National Geographic Society, have joined together with Indonesian partners on-the-ground to launch a Sumatran Rhino Rescue effort.


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