Early this year, the general public received the sad news that one of what is believed to be a population of only 15 Sumatran rhinos inhabiting the West Kutai district of Kalimantan had died. Najaq, a female rhino, had been suffering from an infected wound on her leg, believed to be caused by snares set by poachers. This news highlighted the plight of the remaining relict population of Sumatran rhinos in Borneo. This population (previously thought to be extinct) was rediscovered in 2013 and tracked with the use of camera traps, as Sumatran rhinos are shy solitary animals.
Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) are listed as critically endangered, with less than 250 thought to exist in isolated wild populations across Sumatra and Borneo, although originally found throughout much of Southeast Asia. These rhinos are the smallest of the five surviving species, and the only type possessing a light covering of long hair, earning the nickname ‘hairy rhinos’! Their biggest threat is from poachers who are after their coveted horn; their horns are sought after as a status symbol and for use in alternative medicine.
Field workers are hoping to capture the remaining 14 rhinos in Kalimantan and transfer them to a sanctuary which is currently being constructed close to where Najaq was found. Whether this will be enough to save this Bornean subspecies is unclear. With such a small number believed to be left in existence, we may sadly have to bid farewell to this majestic species of megafauna that once roamed the wild forests of Borneo alongside orangutans.