With the help of remote camera traps, wildlife rangers have confirmed that the Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) still inhabits the Leuser ecosystem in northern Sumatra, making the forest the only place on the Earth where Sumatran tigers, orangutans, elephants, and rhinos survive in a single ecosystem, though all remain Critically Endangered.
An ongoing survey by the Leuser International Foundation (LIF), with funding from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), has so far revealed that at least seven and up to 25 Sumatran rhinos survive. The camera traps, to date, have photographed one male and six females. Other possible rhino areas in Leuser remain to be survived. The population was last surveyed in 1985 when officials estimated a total population of 60-70 animals in Leuser.
The camera traps and surveying also found evidence of illegal logging, poaching, and encroachment in protected areas of Leuser, putting the already-fragile population at risk. Even when rhinos aren’t targeted by poachers, they can easily become injured in snares.
While Sumatran rhinos are imperiled worldwide by habitat loss and poaching, the gravest concern, according to some experts, is that the populations are too small and scattered to maintain healthy breeding populations. Given this, scientists are now attempting to breed Sumatran rhinos in large, semi-wild enclosures where they can be carefully monitored. Just such a rhino sanctuary at Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra has recently made good: producing its first offspring in June.
It is thought that less than 200 Sumatran rhinos survive worldwide with scattered populations in parts of Sumatra and a few dozen on the island of Borneo.