The Sumatran Rhino Has Gone Extinct in the Malaysian Wild
According to a new study, the Sumatran rhino is now considered extinct in the wild in Malaysia.
Sumatran rhinos have not been found in Malaysia since 2007, and what are considered to be the last two female rhinos in the Malaysian Borneo were captured and placed into breeding facilities in 2011 and 2014.
Researchers estimate that there are now fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild, which are distributed among three populations on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
In order to save the species, researchers suggest that safe regions be implemented where the rhinos can breed, otherwise known as intensive management zones, and place isolated rhinos into these areas so that they can reproduce safely. While Asian governments have approved of these zones in 2013, the researchers say they have yet to establish them.
Other strategies suggested by the scientists include establishing Rhino Protection Units — teams of people, usually including armed park rangers, responsible for monitoring the animals, looking for signs of rhinos, and scouting for and arresting poachers — at rhino breeding sites, as well as improving the rhino breeding programs by adding assisted reproductive technologies, such as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization.
“We’ve reached a point of no return,” said study lead author Rasmus Havmøller, a graduate student at the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the Natural History Museum of Denmark.”[Sumatran rhino] densities are so low. What we need to do is go out, find out where the rhinos are, firstly, bring them together, secondly, … and then ensure their protection within these areas.”
The poaching of the Sumatran rhino and four other endangered rhino species – black, white, Indian and Javan – has been steadily on the rise since 2008, when rhino horns came to be viewed as a status symbol in many Asian countries. So few rhinos live in the wild now that it’s difficult for a male and female to meet in their native habitats.
“Thus they just spiral into extinction by themselves,” Havmøller told Live Science. “After being heavily poached and getting into low numbers, it’s been the lack of breeding that’s the primary cause for their extinction.”
We just hope the governments act quickly before it’s too late.