Crisis Meeting To Urgently Act On Saving The Sumatran Rhino


SINGAPORE, 15 March 2013 - With the number of Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) estimated to be less than 200 and declining rapidly, urgent action is needed to save this species from extinction.

Listed as Critically Endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Sumatran rhino is the smallest and last form of the Two-horned hairy rhinos that have lived on the planet for 20 million years.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SCC) is convening the Sumatran Rhino Crisis Summit (SRCS) from 31 March to 4 April, 2013 in Singapore to review the Sumatran rhino situation and existing conservation strategies; identify key issues that require action; and rally all stakeholders behind a new global conservation plan that is expected to layout clear and immediate actions needed to prevent the species from becoming extinct.

There will be a particular focus on the last wild populations of Sumatran rhinos in Sumatra in Indonesia and in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, where the population is on the verge of extinction.

It is expected that this meeting which includes stakeholders and participants beyond rhino experts and conservationists, will be successful in engaging global attention and will provide a fresh impetus to the objective of raising the 30 million Euros that is estimated as the minimum cost over the next five years to save this species. The meeting will also help shift the conversation discussions for this species from specialist rhino events to a broad, global platform.

“Serious concern over the plight of this species has been raised worldwide and leading experts agree that it is just a matter of time before the Sumatran Rhinoceros goes extinct if no new and concerted action is taken,” said Simon N. Stuart, Chair of the IUCN SSC. “We believe it is vital that governments of Indonesia and Malaysia are actively engaged in the SRCS discussions, conclusions and recommendations. A collaborative effort involving governments, NGOs and other relevant specialists is necessary to avert the extinction of this magnificent species.”

In addition to governmental and NGO representatives from Indonesia and Malaysia and individuals with experience in rhino protection, reproduction and veterinary care, representatives from zoos and other institutions with expertise in Sumatran rhinos as well as people from the Americas, Africa, Europe and Australia with experience in saving previously critically endangered species are attending the summit.

Groups that have played an active role since last year in planning the event in collaboration with IUCN SSC include 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.

The event is hosted by Wildlife Reserves Singapore at Jurong Bird Park, while Sime Darby Foundation, WWF, IUCN, IRF and TSI are providing funds and resources.

Over five decades ago, pioneering conservationists were already concerned over the species’ rarity, and in 1984, the IUCN SCC Captive Breeding Specialist Group, on behalf of the IUCN, convened a three-day meeting in Singapore to formulate an acceptable plan for a captive propagation project as part of the overall strategy to conserve the species.

Twenty participants representing governments of Sumatran rhino regions, zoos and other stakeholders agreed to a plan to prioritise conservation of wild populations and to form a loosely-coordinated global captive population drawn from rhinos outside protected areas.

Subsequently, eight natural forest habitats containing Sumatran rhinos were protected in the main regions but surveys indicate wild populations in these areas have mostly stagnated, declined or gone extinct. Reasons include inadequate protection and monitoring of wild populations and additionally rhino population densities were probably already too low for them to recover without intensive management intervention.

Between 1985 and 1994, a total of 40 rhinos were captured for captive breeding including the seven and three sent to the United States and United Kingdom, respectively, from areas converted to plantations.

The captive propagation plan largely failed through a fatal combination of factors including dealing with a solitary species which is inherently difficult to breed, inadequate knowledge of rhino breeding biology and dietary requirements, cautious decision making, weak collaboration and emphasis on capture of “doomed” rhinos rather than fertile ones. Yet, three calves were produced in the United States, and one was born in Indonesia in 2012.

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