Sumatran Rhino: Population & Conservation

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In this lesson, you will learn about the critically endangered Sumatran rhino, particularly its current population status and efforts toward conservation of the species.

The Sumatran Rhino

Have you ever seen a rhinoceros at the zoo? They are huge creatures, even from a distance. The Sumatran rhino is actually the smallest of the rhino species, yet it can still be still over 2,000 pounds and six to eight feet long!

Unfortunately, their huge size has not deterred people from poaching, or illegally hunting, these creatures. The reddish-brown Sumatran rhino lives in Indonesia, and it is the most endangered of all the rhino species.

Population

The Sumatran rhino is listed as Critically Endangered, which means it is at a high risk of becoming extinct in the wild. There are less than 100 Sumatran rhinos living in the wild today, making them the most endangered rhino species.

Part of the problem is their slow breeding rate. These rhinos give birth to one calf every three or four years, and they do not start reproducing at all until they are six to ten years old. Because they live naturally to be 35 or 40, this would not be a problem on its own. However, this combined with poaching has dropped the population to what it is today.

Rhinoceros horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Even though hunting rhinos is illegal, there is a high demand for their horns on the black market, so there are still poachers who go after them. This is the main reason for their Critically Endangered status.

Sumatran Rhinos only give birth to one calf every three or four years.
Sumatran Rhino

Conservation

Organizations working to conserve the Sumatran rhino are approaching the issue from two different angles. One is stopping the poaching, and the other is increasing the population.

Poaching Prevention

The only way to really prevent poaching is to have people out in the rhinos' habitat looking for poachers and arresting them. Not only do the arrests stop current poachers, but the knowledge that there are people out making these arrests will also deter future poachers.

One example of this is the International Rhino Foundation. They send 'Rhino Protection Units' out to patrol the habitat, tracking wildlife and looking for signs of poaching. In the two parks where they regularly patrol, there has been no known rhinoceros poaching for the past seven years.

Increased Population

The other half of the conservation effort involves breeding Sumatran rhinos in captivity and raising them in wildlife parks, with the hope that they can one day be released into the wild.

The Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park is run by the International Rhino Foundation. They currently have five Sumatran rhinos, which they are breeding. They have been fairly successful, and had a baby rhino born in 2012.

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