Cover stories: protecting the Sumatran rhino

With approximately 100 individuals left in the wild, the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is one of four charismatic megafauna species in Sumatra used as flagship and umbrella species for conservation. Our cover image photographer for issue 56:5, Marsya Sibarani tells us about her interaction with this endangered species.

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In 2015, I got the chance to visit the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Way Kambas National Park, Sumatra. I was accompanying a team of consultants conducting a feasibility study for the establishment of Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) for rhino conservation, where a zero-poaching policy was to be implemented. As a part of the visit, we got the chance to see the Sumatran rhinos in the sanctuary, including the three-year old male rhino, named Andatu, the first Sumatran rhino born through a captive breeding programme in Indonesia. When we arrived, his keeper just finished washing him, and he started gently browsing through the understory plants in his semi-wild enclosure. The birth of Andatu brings hope for the captive breeding of Sumatran rhinos to support the wild populations. It is estimated that there are only approximately 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild. To ensure the survival of Sumatran rhino, it is imperative to integrate both in-situ and ex-situ conservation efforts. The captive breeding programme at SRS aims to increase captive rhino numbers and eventually reintroduce them into their natural habitat. To protect rhino populations in the wild, the Indonesian government, supported by NGOs, employs forest patrol teams to safeguard the rhino habitat, restores degraded forests, and engages local communities to protect the forests.

Read the corresponding article, Measuring the surrogacy potential of charismatic megafauna species across taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity on a megadiverse island in issue 56:5 of Journal of Applied Ecology.

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