Friday, April 5, 2013

Indonesia, Malaysia Agree to Save Last 100 Sumatran Rhinos

Sumatran rhinos
Sumatran rhinos (Photo by Dedi Candra / Yayasan Badak Indonesia)
The governments of Indonesia and Malaysia today agreed for the first time to collaborate on saving the Critically Endangered Sumatran rhino, the smallest and last form of the two-horned rhino in Asia that has lived on the planet for 20 million years.

The last wild populations of Sumatran rhino, Dicerorhinus sumatrensis, amount to fewer than 100 rhinos in total. They survive on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and in Sabah, Malaysia on the northern part of the island of Borneo.

The agreement was reached at the Sumatran Rhino Crisis Summit convened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) at the Singapore Zoo with a wide range of international and national organizations.

Experts gathered at the summit proposed a two-year emergency action plan as an immediate follow-up to the event. The two governments now need to formalize the collaboration and agree on the next steps to tackle the Sumatran rhino crisis, brought on by an increase in illegal hunting and consumer demand for rhino horn.

Datuk Dr. Laurentius Ambu, director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, detailed some of the initiatives the two countries will take to conserve the last Sumatran rhinos.

“We would like to reiterate Sabah’s commitment and our willingness to further discuss with Indonesia opportunities to exchange reproductive cells of the species, move individual rhinos between our countries and to employ advanced reproductive technology as a parallel initiative in the Sumatran rhino captive breeding program,” he said.

Dr. Ambu made this pledge to more than 130 rhino experts, scientists, government officials and representatives of nongovernmental organizations from around the world gathered in Singapore this week to address the Sumatran rhino crisis.

They made their plans in view of lessons learned from previous conservation successes of other rhinos and species such as the Californian condor, the black-footed ferret and Hawaiian forest birds.

“Serious steps must be taken to roll back the tide of extinction of the Sumatran rhino,” said Widodo Ramano, executive director of the Indonesian Rhino Foundation, Yayasan Badak Indonesia, a nongovernmental organization.

“This could be our last opportunity to save this species and, by working together as a collaborative unit, internationally and regionally, with an agreed vision and goals, a glimmer of hope has been clearly demonstrated,” he said.

“We need to act together urgently, hand in hand, replicating some of the inspirational successes of other conservation efforts and aim to stop any failures that might impede progress,” Ramano said.

“The Sumatran Rhino Crisis Summit has been transformational by bringing together the two governments whose representatives committed to positive and proactive bilateral collaboration which is critical for saving this enigmatic species,” says Mark Stanley Price, chairman of the IUCN SSC Species Conservation Planning Sub-Committee.

“Huge progress has been made in specifying the resources needed to improve rhino surveys, security and monitoring,” said Price. “We have also explored the potential of new technologies and the role of integrating the management of wild and captive individuals.”

Summit participants were encouraged by the agreement, although the recent past history of rhinos has been bleak.


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