INDONESIA: The First Wild Sumatran Rhino Has Been Captured for Breeding

INDONESIA: The First Wild Sumatran Rhino Has Been Captured for Breeding
Credit: Ridho Hafizh Zainur Ridha/WWF-Indonesia
Why you need to know

It's a key step towards saving a critically endangered species whose population may be fewer than 100.

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By Basten Gokkon

  • A female Sumatran rhinoceros has been captured in Indonesian Borneo and moved to a local sanctuary as part of an initiative to conserve the near-extinct species through captive breeding.
  • A team of veterinarians and rhino experts is now caring for the rhino around the clock, and will seek to establish whether she is viable for breeding.
  • Conservationists and government officials have welcomed news of the capture and rescue, a key step toward replenishing a species whose total population may be fewer than 100.
  • The capture comes two years after another female rhino was trapped in the same district, only to die less than a month later.

Conservationists have captured a wild Sumatran rhinoceros in Indonesian Borneo and relocated it to a breeding center – a key step toward saving the critically endangered species.

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Credit: Ridho Hafizh Zainur Ridha / WWF-Indonesia
Pahu, a female Sumatran rhino captured by conservationists in East Kalimantan province, Indonesian Borneo

The adult female Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) fell into a pit trap on Nov. 25 in West Kutai district, East Kalimantan province. Wildlife experts from the Sumatran Rhino Rescue initiative had set the trap, one of many, to catch rhinos for a captive-breeding program.

Within 24 hours, conservationists and government officials worked to move the rhino to a rehabilitation center in West Kutai, where a team of veterinarians and experts will attend to the animal. The rhino has been named Pahu.

“This particular rhino was in a grave danger due to her degraded habitat,” said Rizal Malik, chief executive officer of World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Indonesia, which was involved in the rescue. “While risks remain for this rhino, with her safe arrival at the sanctuary, we’re cautiously optimistic, and our dedicated team will continue with the round-the-clock care as she settles into her new home.”

Sunandar, the head of the East Kalimantan conservation agency, said in an official statement that Pahu was in “stable and good” condition. In another statement, WWF said the team at the rehabilitation center would “work to ensure her safety and health in this new environment, at which point they will begin work to determine her breeding viability.”

The capture comes two years after WWF conservationists captured a female rhino, also in West Kutai, that had sustained a severe leg injury from a snare. The rhino, named Najaq, was the first that conservationists had encountered in Indonesian Borneo in 40 years; she died within weeks of her capture, prompting criticism of her handling and care by WWF.

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Credit: Ridho Hafizh Zainur Ridha / WWF-Indonesia
The female rhino has been named Pahu.
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Credit: Ridho Hafizh Zainur Ridha / WWF-Indonesia
The rhino has been safely transported to a Sumatran Rhino Rescue center as part of a captive-breeding effort to save the species.

The National Geographic Society is one of five organizations – alongside WWF, Global Wildlife Conservation, the International Rhino Foundation, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature – that established the Sumatran Rhino Rescue initiative in September this year. The initiative aims to capture isolated Sumatran rhinos from the wild and move them to the two captive-breeding facilities in Borneo and Sumatra.

Wiratno, the Indonesian conservation chief, said captive breeding was just the start, with an eventual goal of replenishing the wild population.

“The government of Indonesia is fully committed not just to the captive breeding effort now underway but to safeguarding the natural habitat of the Sumatran rhino with the hope of eventually reintroducing a healthy population of animals into the wild,” he said.

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The News Lens has been authorized to publish this article from Mongabay, an environmental science and conservation news and information site. The original article can be found here.

TNL Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)

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