With population estimates of Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) reduced to less than 100 individuals, a ground-breaking agreement to save the Critically Endangered species was reached today between representatives of the Indonesian and Malaysian governments. The agreement was formed at a summit convened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC), involving a wide range of international and national organisations.
This is the first time the two countries join their efforts to address the dire state of the species, of which the last wild populations are believed to survive in Sumatra, western Indonesia and Sabah, Malaysia. The two governments now need to formalize the collaboration and agree on the next steps to tackle the Sumatran rhino crisis. Experts gathered at the summit have made a proposal for a two-year emergency action plan as an immediate follow-up to the event.
“Serious steps must be taken to roll back the tide of extinction of the Sumatran rhino,” says Widodo Ramono, Executive Director of Yayasan Badak Indonesia (YABI). “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. 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.”
“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 programme,” says Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah, Malaysia.
More than 130 rhino experts, scientists, government officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations from around the world gathered in Singapore this week to find solutions to the Sumatran rhino crisis, drawing on lessons learnt from previous conservation successes of other rhinos and species such as the Californian Condor, the Black-footed Ferret and Hawaiian forest birds.
“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. We have also explored the potential of new technologies and the role of integrating the management of wild and captive individuals.”
The Sumatran rhino is the smallest and last form of the two-horned rhino in Asia that has lived on the planet for 20 million years. It is one of the world’s rarest rhino species. 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.
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Participants at the Sumatran Rhino Crisis Summit:
IUCN SSC, Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA, Malaysia), Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP, Malaysia), Fauna and Flora International (FFI Indonesia), Rhino Foundation of Indonesia (YABI), Indonesian Zoo and Aquarium Association (PKBSI), International Rhino Foundation (IRF), Leuser International Foundation (LIF, Indonesia), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS Indonesia), Taman Safari Indonesia (TSI), WWF and SOS Rhino US, YABI (Yayasan Badak Indonesia), IUCN SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group.
The event was hosted by Wildlife Reserves Singapore Group (Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, River Safari) at Singapore Zoo, while Sime Darby Foundation, WWF, IUCN SSC, IRF, PKBSI and TSI provided funds and resources.