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The Sumatran Rhino is extinct in Malaysia

The Sumatran Rhino is extinct in Malaysia, according to a team of scientists from the University of Copenhagen’s Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate. The tragic findings were published in the conservation journal Oryx.

The last sighting of a Sumatran Rhino was in 2007, and after years without a trace, the researchers have declared the animal extinct in Malyasia.

Sumatran rhino populations have been declining for years, and humans are largely to blame. IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, stated on their page about the Sumatran Rhino, “Hunting is primarily driven by the demand for the supposedly medicinal properties of rhino horns and other body parts, and many centuries of over-hunting has reduced this species to a tiny percentage of its former population and range.” The ICUN also cites habitat destruction as an exacerbating factor in the catastrophic drop in population, which once covered most of South-east Asia.

Credit: Rasmus Gren Havmøller via http://macroecology.ku.dk

Today, it’s estimated that about 100 Sumatran Rhinos are left in the wild in Indonesia. Nine individuals are in captivity across the United States, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Plans are already in the works to relocate the single Sumatran Rhino in the United States back to a rhino sanctuary in Sumatra, Indonesia which is home to five of the remaining captive rhinos. Captive breeding programs in both Indonesia and Malaysia have been ongoing, and the IUCN reports, “There have been recent advances in captive breeding techniques for this species, including a successful births at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2001 and 2004 (Khan et al., 2004).” To date, four Sumatran rhinos have been born in captivity.

This footage captured by the paper’s lead author, University of Copenhagen PhD student Rasmus Gren Havmøller, shows one such success story at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia.

“It is vital for the survival of the species that all remaining Sumatran rhinos are viewed as a metapopulation, meaning that all are managed in a single program across national and international borders in order to maximize overall birth rate. This includes the individuals currently held in captivity,” said the paper’s lead author, University of Copenhagen PhD student Rasmus Gren Havmøller, in a press release.

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