A rare Sumatran rhino was sighted by wildlife researchers in Kalimantan, Borneo. The sighting and first physical contact in more than 40 years paves the way for the rhino conservation efforts in Indonesia.

In August 2015, the International Rhino Foundation officially declared Sumatran rhinos, once endemic in the region, to be extinct. In an effort to save the species, the United States planned to send its last Sumatran rhino to Indonesia to breed.

The captured Dicerorhinus sumatrensis, a female, is estimated to be 4 to 5 years old and was caught safely in a pit trap set in Kutai Barat, east of Kalimantan.

A survey team of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) initially found evidence of the Sumatran rhino's existence in 2013 as they identified footprints and captured images via camera trap in the Kutai Barat forest. The team's effort was able to identify about 15 Sumatran rhinos in three areas of the forest.

"This is an exciting discovery and a major conservation success," said Dr. Efransjah, CEO of WWF-Indonesia. "We now have proof that a species once thought extinct in Kalimantan still roams the forests, and we will now strengthen our efforts to protect this extraordinary species."

The captured rhino is now safely held in an enclosure before transferring her to a new home, the second Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia, about 150 kilometers (about 93 miles) from her capture site.

The experts believe that providing a sanctuary for the rare rhinos is the last card in conserving them. Efransjah vowed that WWF will closely work with the Sumatran team in protecting the population of the rhinos in Indonesia.

Marco Lambertini, WWF International Director General, shared that the discovery will boost the organization's hope of saving the iconic symbol of the Asian rainforest.

In the island of Sumatra, less than 100 Sumatran rhinos are estimated to remain in the wild. Their existence is greatly affected by the threats of habitat loss due to plantations, mining, logging and increased incidence of poaching.

Sumatran rhinos are the smallest of the rhino species, only growing up to 950 kilograms (2,000 pounds). They are also known as hairy rhinos due to their noticeable reddish hair covering. They are often found as solitary grazers in dense forests.

Southeast Asia and Africa have five species of rhinoceros, of which the Javan rhino has the smallest population of only 63 left in the wild. Due to the dwindling number of rhinos in these areas the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warns that these rhinos are at risk of being extinct.

Photo: International Rhino Foundation | Flickr

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