No Sumatran rhinos left in Malaysian wild

Driven by poaching, the Sumatran rhinoceros is now extinct in the wild in Malaysia, says a study

by leading scientists and experts in the field of rhino conservation.

The survival of the Sumatran rhino, earlier found across most of Southeast Asia, now depends on the 100 or fewer remaining individuals in the wild in Indonesia and the nine rhinos in captivity.

No sign since last eight years: Despite intensive survey efforts, there have been no signs of the wild Sumatran rhinoceros in Malaysia since 2007, apart from two females that were captured for breeding purposes in 2011 and 2014, the researchers noted.

“It is vital for the survival of the species that all remaining Sumatran rhinos are viewed as a metapopulation, meaning that all are managed in a single programme across national and international borders in order to maximise overall birth rate. This includes the individuals currently held in captivity,” said lead author Rasmus Gren Havmoller from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

High level intervention required: The researchers believe that intervention like India’s Project Tiger can help save the rhinoceros species.

“The tiger in India was saved from extinction due to the direct intervention of Mrs (Indira) Gandhi, the then prime minister, who set up Project Tiger. A similar high level intervention by President Joko Widodo of Indonesia could help pull the Sumatran rhinos back from the brink,” study co-author Christy Williams of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) noted.

The experts pointed to the creation of intensive management zones as a solution; areas with increased protection against poaching, where individual rhinos can be relocated to, in order to increase the number of potential and suitable mating partners.

Significant threat: With a high demand for rhinoceros horns in black markets in Asia, poaching continues to be a significant threat to the species.

The study was published online in Oryx, the International Journal of Conservation.