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Save the Sumatran rhino ‘because we can’ (commentary)

Mother Sumatran rhino with calf in Way Kambas, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler for Mongabay.com.

  • Mongabay sent contributing editor Jeremy Hance to Indonesia in 2017 to visit the last remaining Sumatran rhinos in the forests and protected sanctuaries where captive breeding is having some limited success.
  • Hance argues today in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald that we should save the Sumatran rhino, not only because losing biodiversity is bad for the health of humanity’s environment, but also “because we can.”
  • To keep these ‘lovably weird’ rhinos from extinction, the Indonesian government must act, he argues, because even if there’s 100 left, that size population is unlikely to be viable in the long term.

Senior correspondent Jeremy Hance argues in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald that we should save the Sumatran rhino, the world’s oldest, smallest, and cutest rhino from extinction not only because losing biodiversity is bad for the health of humanity’s environment, but also “because we can.”

Mongabay sent Hance to Indonesia in 2017 to visit the remaining Sumatran rhinos (estimates vary from 30 left on the one hand, to maybe 100 on the optimistic side) in the forests and protected sanctuaries where captive breeding is having some limited success. To keep these ‘lovably weird’ rhinos from extinction, the Indonesian government must act, he argues, because even if there’s 100 left, that size population is unlikely to be viable in the long term.

Hance filed a series of four reports for Mongabay:

Here’s his feature in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Save the littlest rhino

“In Rudyard Kipling’s classic story of how the rhino got his skin, the titular character is an unmannered lout. This is how the public imagines rhinos: aggressive, dumb and grumpy – charge first, ask questions never.  But in 2010 when I met my first Sumatran rhino, a fellow named Tam, he whistled at me like a curious dolphin and rubbed his horn against my shirt like a cat. I’ve been in love ever since.

“The Sumatran rhino is arguably the most imperiled large terrestrial mammal on the planet. Indonesia – where the last of the species survive – says there are 100 left in the wild. But the real number may be closer to fifty  – and it could be as bad as thirty. I’ve been told by some conservationists it’s too late for this species, but as someone who’s had the pleasure of spending a few precious hours with Sumatran rhinos I’m not ready to throw in the towel.

“Sumatran rhinos are lovably weird. It’s as if Mother Nature combined a big pig, a yak, and an oversized dog. Then, as a joke, she stuck a couple horns on her creation. Unlike other rhinos, Sumatran rhinos sport a coat of hair, sometimes resplendently red. They are small – compared to other rhinos ­– but large compared to most everything else. And they are the most vocal of all the rhinos – they sing like whales and snort and puff in a manner that says “hello, I’m hungry.” They are nearly constantly chattering. Dumb? Hardly…”

Continue reading at the Herald’s site here.

A Sumatran rhino calf at the Way Kambas sanctuary in Indonesia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Banner image: Mother Sumatran rhino with calf in Way Kambas, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler for Mongabay.com.