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Rescue of Sumatran rhino in Indonesia brings new hope for the species

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What’s at Stake

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 sub-populations 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 breed their next generation.

If we don’t act now, the Sumatran rhino will very likely go extinct in our lifetime.

Fewer than 80 Sumatran Rhinos left in the world.

What’s at Stake

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 sub-populations 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 breed their next generation.

If we don’t act now, the Sumatran rhino will very likely go extinct in our lifetime.

Fewer than 80 Sumatran Rhinos left in the world.

Did you know?

The Sumatran rhino is the smallest of all rhino species and the closest living relative of the woolly rhino that roamed the Earth during the Ice Age

Saving a Species

The Plan

The Plan

The Government of Indonesia and an alliance of conservation organizations and on-the-ground experts have launched a focused and ambitious international effort to bring the Sumatran rhino back from the brink of extinction.

Saving a Species

Saving a Species

The Plan

The Indonesian government and an alliance of conservation organizations and on-the-ground experts have launched a focused and ambitious international effort to bring the Sumatran rhino back from the brink of extinction.

Saving a Species

Build Capacity

Establish two new Sumatran Rhino Sanctuaries in Indonesia, one in Indonesian Borneo and the other in northern Sumatra, and expand the existing facility in Way Kambas National Park.

Saving a Species

Search and Rescue

Find and relocate as many rhinos as possible from small, isolated populations across Sumatran and Indonesian Borneo and move them to managed conservation breeding facilities.

Saving a Species

Protect and Breed

Incorporate the rhinos into a single conservation breeding program that uses the state-of-the-art veterinary and husbandry care to maximize the population growth rate..

Status of the Species

Sumatran rhino

(Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)

Height:

3.3–5 feet

Weight:

1,320–2,090 pounds

RHINOCEROS COLLAPSE

The number of Sumatran rhinos has dropped

an estimated 70 percent in the past two

decades, mostly due to poaching. Fewer than

a hundred remain in Indonesia, in isolated

pockets. Sumatran rhinos are solitary creatures.

They’re small compared with other rhino

species, and females give birth about every

three to five years.

asia

pacific

Ocean

Historic range

pacific

Ocean

Indonesia

aus.

Low Birth Rate

Small populations mean the Sumatran rhino’s

potential to reproduce is diminished, putting it

at a higher risk for extinction.

Out of Sight

Sumatran rhinos live in remote areas, so

sightings are rare and population figures are

often disputed. Camera traps are the primary

source of documentation.

A Species in Jeopardy

Isolation is the biggest threat to

Sumatran rhinos. In 2015 they were

declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia.

SUMATRA

Less than 75 rhinos

10 subpopulations or clusters

Thailand

Singapore

Wild rhino population

Park or reserve

Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary

In captivity

7 (3 males, 4 females)

3

LEUSER ECOSYSTEM

Less than 50 rhinos

6 subpopulations

1

BUKIT BARISAN

SELATAN N.P.

Less than 5 rhinos

2 subpopulations

WAY KAMBAS N.P.

Less than 20 rhinos

2 subpopulations

Tabin Wildlife Reserve

In captivity

2 (1 male, 1 female, not reproductively viable)

Wild rhino population

Brunei

Park or reserve

Celebes

Sea

Java Sea

INDONESIAN BORNEO

Less than 10 rhinos

Rhinos have been seen in the Kutai Barat and Mahakam Ulu Regencies, with other rumored sightings by locals.

Lauren E. James, Clare Trainor, NGM Staff

Art: Joe McKendry

Sources: Global forest watch; Protected

planet; Global wildlife Conservation;

International Rhino Foundation; World

wildlife Fund; IUCN Species Survival Commission

The Leuser Ecosystem

Out of Sight

Gulf of

Thailand

Sumatran rhinos live in remote areas, so sightings are rare and population figures are often disputed. Camera traps are the primary source of documentation.

This mountainous tropical rain forest is home to several small, scattered populations of Sumatran rhinos.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve

In captivity

2 (1 male, 1 female, not reproductively viable)

Royal Belum

State Park

Brunei

Bandar Seri Begawan

Gunung Leuser N.P.

Taman Negara N.P.

Danum Valley Conservation Area

LEUSER

ECOSYSTEM

Less than 50 rhinos

6 subpopulations

Kuala Lumpur

Lake

Toba

Celebes Sea

Singapore

SUMATRA

Less than 75 rhinos

10 subpopulations

or clusters

WAY KAMBAS N.P.

Less than 20 rhinos

2 subpopulations

Kerinci Seblat N.P.

Last record of

wild rhino: 2004

asia

Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary

Historic range

Low Birth Rate

In captivity

7 (3 males,4 females)

pacific

Ocean

pacific

Ocean

BUKIT BARISAN

SELATAN N.P.

Less than 5 rhinos

2 subpopulations

Small populations mean the Sumatran rhino’s potential to reproduce is diminished, putting it at a higher risk for extinction.

Java Sea

Indonesia

Jakarta

aus.

RHINOCEROS COLLAPSE

A Species in Jeopardy

Height:

3.3–5 feet

Isolation is the biggest threat to

Sumatran rhinos. In 2015 they were

declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia.

The number of Sumatran rhinos has dropped an estimated 70 percent in the past two decades, mostly due to poaching. Fewer than a hundred remain in Indonesia, in isolated pockets. Sumatran rhinos are solitary creatures. They’re small compared with other rhino species, and females give birth about every three to five years.

Sumatran rhino

Wild rhino population

(Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)

Last observed wild rhino location

Park or reserve

Weight:

1,320–2,090 pounds

Lauren E. James, Clare Trainor, NGM Staff. Art: Joe McKendry

Sources: Global forest watch; Protected planet; Global wildlife Conservation; International Rhino Foundation; World wildlife Fund; IUCN Species Survival Commission

Rhino Rescue Partnership

Sumatran Rhino Rescue is a groundbreaking approach to conservation that brings together the Government of Indonesia, leading international conservation organizations, local experts and conservation practitioners, and supporters from around the world to save a species from extinction.

The Sumatran Rhino Survival Alliance

How You Can Help

If you or your organization is interested in joining this effort, please contact sumatranrhinorescue@ssc.iucn.org Learn more about the Sumatran Rhino Rescue effort and supporting organizations here.

Lead image: Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic
Eye close-up: Colby Bishop, National Geographic
Saving a Species/The Plan: Joel Sartore, National Geographic
Saving a Species/Build Capacity: Colby Bishop, National Geographic
Saving a Species/Search and Rescue: Joel Sartore, National Geographic
Saving a Species/Protect and Breed: Courtesy Barney Long, Global Wildlife Conservation