The Dicerorhinus sumatrensis or Sumatran rhinoceros has been inching dangerously towards extinction in the last few years. The last wild Sumatran rhino was spotted in Sabah, Malaysia in 2013 and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) called for international support in saving the "weirdest of all rhinos."
Malaysia declared the Sumatran rhino extinct in the country in 2015. Latest figures show that there are less than 100 Sumatran rhinos left in Indonesia. Simon Stuart from the IUCN alerted the international community that the rare rhino species has been reduced to one country. The species' fate is battling external factors such as the destruction of its natural habitat, very low population rate and plundering activities.
In 2008, the IUCN announced that there were about 250 Sumatran rhinos left. Poaching activities in the region nearly halved the population. Thieves kill off the rhinos for their horns, which are more valuable in the black market compared to the horns of the African rhinos.
"For hundreds of years, we've been unable to stem the decline of this species," said Stuart. Apart from the valuable horns, the species' dwindling numbers play a part in the species' near extinction. Sumatran rhinos rarely find each other. The females do not breed regularly which leads to the development of tumors in their reproductive tract. These tumors eventually make the rhinos infertile.
Stuart shared that there are only nine accounted Sumatran rhinos living in captivity. To remedy the breeding problems of the female rhinos in the wild, an 8-year-old male rhino called Harapan from the Cincinnati Zoo in the United States will be flown to Sumatra later in 2015.
The Cincinnati Zoo was successful in producing three rhinos born in captivity. Experts are hopeful that the same can be done for the remaining lot in Indonesia. Terri Roth, head of Cincinnati Zoo's Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife, said returning Harapan to his hometown in Sumatra is the right thing. She is hopeful that Harapan will play a key role in the survival of his species.
A plan has been set but Stuart stressed the need for commitment and international funding to save these animals. This program includes getting all the remaining Sumatran rhinos in one place so they can breed in a safe environment away from poachers.