May 24, 2008

Extinct Borneo Rhino Caught On Tape

Above: camera trap footage of the rare and elusive Borneo rhino - the first-ever footage observing the behaviour in the wild of one of the world’s rarest rhinos.


Species Greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis),
Javan rhino (R. sondaicus),
Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)

Habitat Tropical and subtropical grasslands,
savannahs and shrublands, to
tropical moist forests

Location Southeast Asia, South Asia

Status Endangered to Critically Endangered
(IUCN-The World Conservation Union)

Population Less than 3,000

Mysterious, often unseen, and very low in numbers, two of the three Asian rhino species hover on the brink of extinction

Historically hunted for their horn, a prized ingredient in traditional Asian medicines, and devastated by the destruction of their lowland forest habitat, Asian rhino populations are now distressingly small. These animals are among the world’s most endangered, with one species numbering only around 60 individuals. Throughout their range, their habitat continues to dwindle fast due to illegal logging and other human pressures, and the threat of poaching is ever-present.

Sumatran rhino

The smallest rhino species

The Critically Endangered Sumatran rhino is the smallest rhino species and the only Asian rhino with two horns.

Also called the lesser two-horned rhino or hairy rhino, it once ranged from north-eastern India through Indochina, Malaysia, and the islands of Sumatra (Indonesia) and Borneo (Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia). Their numbers are thought to have at least halved between 1985 and 1995.

Today, the population is estimated at less than 300 individuals in small pockets of Sumatra, peninsular Malaysia, and Borneo. The Borneo population is considered a distinct sub-species, numbering perhaps fewer than 25 animals.

Greater one-horned rhino

A growing success story

Also known as the Indian rhino, the greater one-horned rhino is enjoying the greatest conservation success. Its original range extended from Pakistan all the way through India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Myanmar. However in 1975, only 600 remained.

By 2002, conservation efforts resulted in the swelling of greater one-horned rhino populations to 2,400 in the Terai Arc Landscape of India and Nepal, and the grasslands of Assam and north Bengal, northeast India.

This success aside, however, the greater one-horned rhino is still listed as Endangered as only two populations number more than 100 individuals.

Javan rhino

Probably the rarest large mammal species in the world

The Critically Endangered Javan rhino is also known as the lesser one-horned rhino, and is probably the rarest large mammal species in the world. No more than 60 individuals are thought to survive in the wild, and there are none in captivity.

The Javan rhino historically roamed from north-eastern India through Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam, and the islands of Sumatra and Java (Indonesia).

Today, just 28–56 are estimated to remain in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, and no more than 8 survive in Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam. Both groups belong to distinct sub-species.


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