By Helen Regan, CNN
An extremely rare Sumatran rhino has been born in captivity at a sanctuary in Indonesia, the government says, a triumph for conservation efforts to save the critically endangered animal from extinction.
The female rhino was born on March 24 at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra’s Lampung Province, according to the Indonesian Ministry of Environment.
“The birth of the Sumatran rhino is good news among the efforts of the Indonesian government and its partners to increase the population of Sumatran rhino,” said Wiratno, director general of conservation at the Ministry of Environment, in a statement. .
Sumatran rhinos, the world’s smallest rhino species, once thrived across Southeast Asia, but are now only found in tiny pockets on the island of Sumatra in northern Indonesia. , and in Borneo, Indonesia.
Fewer than 80 Sumatran rhinos remain, according to the International Rhino Foundation (IRF).
In 2019, Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhino died at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary. The Sumatran rhino was declared extinct in Malaysia in 2015, but the death of the female, called Iman, meant the species had been completely wiped out there.
The birth of the cub in Indonesia last week brings the number of Sumatran rhinos at the sanctuary to eight.
Pregnancy was not an easy process. The mother, a rhino named Rosa, had lost eight previous pregnancies. And the father, Andatu, was the first rhino ever born in captivity in Indonesia, the IRF said.
The Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary captive breeding program, which the IRF helped build, is the only place in the country “for the Sumatran rhino to reproduce naturally with the support of technology and the collaboration of the expertise,” Wiratno said.
The program aims to maintain the survival of the Sumatran rhino by increasing the number of rhinos so that one day they can be reintroduced into the wild.
“Rosa’s pregnancy represents new hope for this critically endangered species,” Nina Fascione, IRF’s executive director, said in a statement. “This is a momentous occasion for a critically endangered species. We share the excitement of this birth with the world!
Several factors have contributed to the decline of the rhino population. Initially, it was caused by poaching for their horns, which were coveted as ingredients in traditional Asian medicine. Later, it was exacerbated by fragmented habitats and human encroachment on the environment, which prevent rhinos from congregating and breeding.
Without intervention, the IRF declared that the Sumatran rhinoceros would be extinct in a few decades.
International rhino experts and the Indonesian government have decided that transferring the rhinos to a captive breeding program is the only way to save the species.
The Sumatran rhino calf follows the birth of five Javan rhinos – also critically endangered – in Ujung Kulon National Park in 2021.
There are only five species of rhino left in the world, and all of them are endangered. Some subspecies have already disappeared; the western black rhino, native to West Africa, was declared extinct in 2013 due to poaching. And the last male northern white rhino died in 2020.
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CNN’s Masrur Jamaluddin and Jessie Yeung contributed reporting.