A massive blow to the critically endangered Sumatran rhino has been made. The last male rhino in Malaysia was announced dead due to organ failure on May 27th.
It is currently estimated that less than 80 Sumatran rhinos are still alive worldwide. The male had been transferred to a wildlife reserve with hopes of breeding him, but both of the females were infertile.
However, it is very important to note that this was not the last male Sumatran rhino in the world, just Malaysia.
Why The Decline
Sumatran rhinos are an Asian breed of rhinos covered in hair and most notably have two horns. Unfortunately, having two horns painted a very large target on them. Poachers have hunted these animals to near extinction for decades.
On top of poachers, the rhinos were also dealing with extreme habitat loss. As more forest was cleared for cities and road, the rhino population became fragmented. This made it difficult for them to find each other to breed.
Unfortunately, while all hope isn’t lost, repopulating will be an extremely slow process since rhino pregnancies can take up to 16 months. On top of this, as the females grow older, they become more susceptible to reproductive pathologies.
If the population had remained as one large herd, they would never have been this close to extinction.
All Rhino Species Are In Trouble
There are currently only five species of rhino in the world with two of them in Africa and three in Asia. The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) lists 3-out-of-5 rhino species critically endangered.
Each species shares similar problems: habitat loss and poachers. Rhino horns are in high demand on the black market and poachers are up for the challenge. Rhino horns are thought to have healing properties, which is why they are in such high demand.
Of course, when you consider over one million species are facing extinction due to human interference, this is to be expected.
Not Extinct Yet
While the Sumatran rhino may only have an approximate population of 80, all hope is not lost. Scientists believe that if they could find 20 rhinos to repopulate the race, they will not go extinct. Instead, the population would begin to grow.
However, the odds are not in their favor. Habitat loss, poachers, long pregnancies and infertile females are major obstacles to overcome.