Sumatran Rhino, Thought Extinct, Shows Up After 40 Years

Nancy Bailey

The Sumatran rhinoceros disappeared over 40 years ago. But tracking them through their native rainforests and swamps of Kalimantan, Borneo, and the island of Sumatra, scientists knew the smallest version of the Asian rhino was still around. They found teasers, such as footprints and dung, and an occasional photo snapped by a strategically placed trail cam.

The Sumatran rhinoceros was a ghost; a shadow of its primitive past. But with numbers estimated under 100 individuals, the rhino was considered, for all intents and purposes, extinct. Counting them was difficult, because like most rhinos, individuals were loners. They scatter far and wide in the hilly country, foraging for twigs and fruit, digging in mud and doing rhino stuff. They like to remain in thick undergrowth. This habit, along with their dwindling numbers and preferred solitude, made them especially elusive.

— World Animal News (@WorldAnimalNews) March 22, 2016

"That's a very, very rare thing," said Simon Stuart, a rhino expert at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. According to a report by The Guardian, Stuart said that the dense rainforest and remote nature of the area made sightings difficult.

"Finding a single Sumatran rhino is good news given we can't even account for 100 in the world."

Pak Efransjah, the CEO of the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) in Indonesia, said it was exciting news and a major conservation success.

"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."
"This is a race against time for rhino conservation. Providing a safe home is the only hope for the survival of the Sumatran rhino for many generations to come. WWF will work continuously with the Sumatran rhino conservation team for the protection of the Sumatran rhino population in Kalimantan."

— WWF UK (@wwf_uk) March 23, 2016

"This unprecedented discovery and unparalleled operation boosts our hope to save one of the most endangered species and an iconic symbol of the majestic Asian rainforests. This is an exciting moment in our efforts to save the world's amazing biodiversity."

[Image via Tatan Syuflana/Associated Press]