The Sumatran rhinoceros is on its way to extinction



by LORENZO CIOTTI

The Sumatran rhinoceros is on its way to extinction

Currently, the most endangered animal in the world is the Sumatran rhinoceros. This animal is threatened due to the destruction of its natural habitat, hunting as their horns are sold illegally for medicinal and cultural reasons and the degradation of water and air quality caused by pollution.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Sumatran rhino population has declined by 70% in the past 20 years and only about 80 wild individuals remain. It is now critically endangered and only six major populations remain in the wild: four in Sumatra, one in Borneo and another in Peninsular Malaysia.

Numbers are difficult to estimate, as it is a solitary creature that moves widely through its range, but it has been estimated that fewer than 275 remain. The decline of the Sumatran rhino is largely attributed to poaching for its horns, of great value in traditional Chinese medicine, valued on the black market no less than US$ 30,000.

Furthermore, this species has suffered greatly from the loss of its habitat: the forests in which it lived, in fact, have been cut down to obtain timber or to make room for crops. Malaysia's last known male and female Sumatran rhinos died in May and November 2019 respectively.

The species is now considered locally extinct in Malaysia and only survives in Indonesia. Fewer than 80 remain. According to the World Wildlife Fund, their number is 30. Only six areas are known where this behemoth survives more consistently: Bukit Barisan Selatan, Gunung Leuser, Kerinci Seblat and Way Kambas National Parks in Sumatra, Taman Negara National Park in Peninsular Malaysia, and Tabin Nature Reserve in Sabah, on the island of Borneo.

While not as rare as the Javan one, it has suffered greatly from poaching and habitat destruction, and remaining populations are small and fragmented; Javan rhinos, on the other hand, all belong to a single large population located on Java's Ujung Kulon peninsula.

While Ujung Kulon rhino numbers have remained relatively stable, Sumatran rhino numbers are believed to continue to decline. Its current status as a critically endangered species is mainly due to poaching and the destruction of rainforests. Much of its range is currently located on the inaccessible mountainous areas of Indonesia.