As the Sumatran rhino’s population dwindled, conservationists were locked in a debate about whether resources should be directed toward captive breeding or protecting wild populations.With captive breeding efforts showing success, and wild populations becoming non-viable, the pendulum has swung in favor of captive breeding.Experts agree that action is needed now more than ever, but any steps rely on support from the Indonesian government. This is the third article in our our four-part series “Is Anyone Going to Save the Sumatran Rhino?” Part One, looked at how many rhinos remain in the wild and Part Two focused on Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park and the Rhino Protection Units. WAY KAMBAS NATIONAL PARK, Indonesia — Five-year-old Andatu pushes his head between the iron bars and whistles at me, a sound like a dolphin greeting. He pulls back and snorts, expelling a puff of rhino breath. He’s telling me he’s impatient; he’s hungry. Behind me, keepers are preparing a meal of fruit and plants for him. The head veterinarian at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS), Zulfi Arsan, tells me that Andatu is smelling me — here I am, a new human, a new bipedal smelly-being, in his territory. Andatu is the hope for the future of this species. He was born in 2012, the first baby rhino at this sanctuary — and the first Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) ever born in captivity in Indonesia. But the hope that Andatu and his younger sister, Delilah, represent is currently outweighed by the dire state of their species as a whole. Andatu has a breakfast of watermelon after being checked by keepers. Officials are discussing how to best utilize him to aid the dwindling population. Photo by Jeremy Hance for Mongabay. Official numbers put the number of Sumatran rhinos left in the wild at around 100, clumped in four locations across Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo. But nearly every expert I talked to said that was no longer the case. No one knows for sure how many are left, but the best-case scenario for the wild population would be around 90 and the worst-case 30. And the population continues to decline. If the Sumatran rhino goes extinct — an increasingly likely proposition despite decades of desperate conservation efforts — it would not just be the loss of a species, but an entire genus. The Sumatran rhino is the only surviving species in the Dicerorhinini group that evolved 15 million to 20 million years ago. It is a living relic, an echo of a past family of rhinos that once roamed the entirety of Eurasia, and the only living relative of the woolly rhino, which humans hunted to extinction 10,000 years ago. And Sumatran rhinos, at least in my view, are the most easily lovable of the world’s rhinos: they are small (for a rhino), weirdly hairy, and the most vocal of all rhino species, making numerous cetacean-like sounds that have been little studied. It’s impossible to meet a Sumatran rhino and not feel a tug toward this shy forest wanderer.