Video: The Sumatran rhino is sliding into extinction. It doesn’t have to

The Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is possibly the world’s rarest large mammal, and certainly one of the most endangered. Official figures put the population at around 80 individuals, including eight in captive-breeding centers in Indonesia. More pessimistic projections put the species’ wild population as low as 30, fragmented into isolated and shrinking populations across the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Genetic evidence suggests that the species was never common, with its population peaking at fewer than 58,000 around 950,000 years ago. It is believed to have been in decline for more than 10,000 years, since rising seas at the end of the last ice age cut off the islands of Southeast Asia from the mainland, fragmenting the species’ habitat. That population decline accelerated rapidly in the 20th century, as Southeast Asia’s human population mushroomed. More and more land was converted for agriculture and human settlements, and forests were opened up to hunters seeking to feed a growing demand for rhino horns and other animal parts. By 1986, when Sumatran rhinos were first added to the IUCN’s endangered species list, their population was estimated at somewhere between 425 and 800. That figure was revised down to 400 by 1996, and to just 100 by 2015. In November 2019, the last rhino known to survive in Malaysia died, leaving Indonesia as the species’ final refuge. Hunting and loss of habitat to oil palm and other crops drove the species to the edge of extinction, and both remain threats. Forests are still…This article was originally published on Mongabay
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