Publication update 4: What will it take to save the Sumatran Rhino?

Now Or Never
click image to download paper. Copyright notice: Cambridge University Press

We’re sure many of you know that one of the world’s most magnificent and docile creatures, the Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), is in deep trouble.

But just how bad is it? From a population of around 320 estimated in 1995, experts now say it could be down to as low as 216 individuals.

One of Rimba’s researchers, Reuben, was involved in a review published recently in the international journal Oryx. This paper was led by Ahmad Zafir Abdul Wahab (currently doing his PhD based at Universiti Sains Malaysia; to find out what needs to be done to save this species from extinction. The consensus is that:

1) Wild individuals have to be captured and put in carefully managed forests that are as large and natural as possible.

2) There has to be an urgent injection of government and private funding to improve protection and monitoring capacities of agencies  working on rhino conservation in four priority areas: Bukit Barisan Selatan and Way Kambas National Parks in Sumatra, and Danum Valley Conservation Area and Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah.

Once this basic level of funding is secured for these priority areas, more funds need to be channeled towards a search party to determine the status of rhinos in two other important areas, Gunung Leuser in Sumatra and Taman Negara in Peninsular Malaysia.

Just how much are we talking about for this basic level of funding? Only USD1.2 million! Pocket change for some people, especially the guy who bought a 1939 Batman comic for the same price at an auction in Dallas, back in February 2010.

Surely the price of the Sumatran rhino’s existence is worth much more than a comic book? Surely governments and noble companies can put together a fraction of their GDPs and annual revenues to save this species?

Although the Sumatran rhino has a negative SAFE index of -1.36 and is tipping over into the chasm of extinction, there have been positive historical examples of rebounding rhino populations:

In southern Africa, white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) rebounded from just 20-50 individuals in the early 1900s to around 17,480 individuals today.

In India and Nepal, Indian rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis) rebounded from only 200 individuals at the turn of the 20th century to around 2,575 individuals today.

Recovering from 216 individuals is by no means easy in this day and age, but history has shown it’s possible.

Please contact organizations actively engaged in Sumatran rhino conservation like the Borneo Rhino Alliance or International Rhino Foundation if you want to help preserve the existence of the Sumatran rhino. It’s now or never…

Full citation: Ahmad Zafir, A. W., Azlan, M., Lau, C. F., Sharma, D. S. K., Payne, J., Alfred, R., Williams, A. C., Nathan, S., Ramono, W. S., and Clements, R.G. 2011. Now or never: what will it take to save the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) from extinction? ORYX 45: 225-233.


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