Second Attempt At Saving The Sumatran Rhino From Extinction

Posted on January 21st 2019 Rare Sumatran Rhino Discovered In Borneo

The Sumatran Rhino is one of the world’s most critically endangered species. There are fewer than 80 wild Sumatran rhinos left. During the 1980’s conservationists devised a plan to save the Sumatran rhino from extinction by establishing a captive breeding program. Unfortunately, the program was a massive failure. Now a new coalition of conservation groups is hoping to learn from previous mistakes and begin fresh with a new initiative to Sumatran rhino.

World’s oldest species of rhino

Sumatran rhinos are the oldest species of rhinos on the planet and also the strangest and smallest. They live in the Indonesian rainforests and related to the Wooly rhino which is now extinct. The species is also the most vocal and many researchers compare the Sumatran rhino’s voice to the sounds made by whales and dolphins. It should come as no surprise that the species is so endangered because they have been hunted for tens of thousands of years by humans and continue to be poached for their wild horns. Much of their habitat has been destroyed thanks to deforestation but perhaps most importantly they just don’t seem to be mating in the wild.

Not enough rhinos to replenish the population

Eventually the population becomes so small, there simply isn’t enough of them for the population to be replenished. Given that Indonesia is an archipelago, whatever wild rhinos that do remain are geographically isolated.  Previous captive breeding programs failed because conservationists were feeding them incorrectly, there was diseases and accidents occurred during capture. It took a couple of decades for scientists to work out how to feed and care for the captive rhinos correctly and determine what diseases they were falling victim to.

Induced ovulation

For the first two decades conservationists could not get females to get pregnant. Then a zoo employee discovered that female Sumatran rhinos will not ovulate under certain conditions. They are what is known as “induced ovulators” once this was understood, conservationists were able to achieve a successful pregnancy and delivered a rhino baby in 2001. Now there is a new plan to save the species developed by a consortium of conservation groups calling itself The Sumatran Rhino Rescue.

The second attempt

The plan is to make a second attempt at a captive rhino breeding program. Currently there are only two proven breeders living in captivity and the species continues to disappear in the wild. The basic idea is to capture a few healthy females and males so the that captive breeding program can be enhanced and become successful. Hopefully the program will be a success and the species does not go extinct.

Reason for optimism

There is reason to be optimistic after the success of the European Bison which recovered from a wild population of just 12 and now has a number that exceeds 4,000. That example shows it is not impossible and all that is needed is money and support. Whilst not everything is going to go according to plan and there will be some failures, you can bet that people on the front line of saving this species will do their level best to ensure that it is around for future generations to come.


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