Sumatran Rhino Numbers Plummet to below 100 – Species on the brink of extinction
New population estimates for the Sumatran Rhino were revealed this week at a crisis summit in Singapore, convened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The new estimates indicate that there were likely to be fewer than 100 individuals and represent a significant drop on the previous estimate of between 160 and 200 individual animals. The rhinos exist in five fragmented and widely dispersed populations in Sumatra and Borneo.
The Sumatran Rhinoceros is the smallest of the five remaining rhino species and is a relative of the Ice Age Woolly Rhinoceros. It is a member of a family that has lived on the planet for over 20 million years. One other species, the Javan rhino, is also critically endangered with only an estimated 35 to 50 rhinos left in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java. Two rhino subspecies, the Western Black rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) and Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus – a subspecies of the Javan rhino – have officially been declared extinct since 2010.
For the first time, the Indonesian and Malaysian governments agreed to work in collaboration to save the Critically Endangered Sumatran rhino and will now work to urgently implement a two year Emergency Action Plan which will hopefully result in a boost in wild population numbers and protection of existing and potential rhino habitat.
Significant funding support will be required from international NGOs and Governments to ensure effective and timely implementation of these initiatives.
Asian Rhino Project Director, Clare Campbell, said ‘The frightening decline in Sumatran rhino estimates demonstrate that the current strategy is not working. We need to protect rhino habitat and ensure that it is not fragmented by roads or converted to plantations and farms”
“We need to consolidate dispersed populations into a viable breeding group. We also need to improve governance structures so as to ensure accountability for outcomes. ”
“Most importantly, we need a huge boost in funding to provide a much higher level of security for rhinos and to assist with a more intensive global managed breeding programme. ”
“Although Australian NGOs provide useful funding and technical support, the Australian government currently does not contribute to the conservation of rhinos and other Critically Endangered species in Indonesia. The protection of biodiversity in the Asia Pacific region would considerably enhance Australia’s environmental credentials and exemplify our responsibilities to our neighbours and posterity."
“If we do not act now, the Sumatran rhino will effectively go extinct in the next few years. On 5 June 2012 President Yudhoyono declared the International Year of the Rhino. With less than two months of the Year of the Rhino remaining the Asian Rhino Project calls on the Australian Federal government to step up and support the Indonesian government by providing substantial funding and technical support for efforts to save the Sumatran and Javan rhinos.”
The official IUCN press release can be found at http://www.iucn.org/?12741%2FLast-chance-for-the-Sumatran-rhino
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Both are available for interviews. Clare is based in Perth and Peter is based in Sydney until 19 April.