The rare and critically endangered Sumatran rhino has once again been sighted in the Leuser forest area of Aceh, 26 years after it was last seen there, conservationists have announced.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Leuser International Foundation said that an LIF forest ranger team had detected the presence of the two-horned animal on Dec. 9, 2011.
The LIF said the sighting was part of a survey it had been conducting since nearly a year ago, one which included the installation of camera traps in various places believed to be rhino sighting areas.
“The team brilliantly acquired more than 1,000 images showing Sumatran rhinos in excellent condition,” the LIF said.
Based on the LIF’s survey in two locations, the number of Sumatran rhinos remaining in the area is estimated at between seven and 25 as of April this year.
“We hope that this number can increase when we finish our survey at several other locations,” said Tarmizi, the project leader and coordinator of the survey.
The survey was conducted jointly by the LIF and the Mount Leuser National Park Agency. It received funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The foundation noted, however, that it had also found indications of illegal forest activity in the area that could threaten the survival of the rhino and other species native to the Leuser ecosystem.
“While doing the rhino survey, the LIF and [national park] staff also monitored illegal activities that were going on such as poaching, encroachment, illegal logging and other illegal activities inside Mount Leuser National Park, especially around the Sumatran rhino’s habitat area,” it said.
The Sumatran rhino is the smallest and most primitive of all the rhino species in the world. Since 1996, it has been categorized as critically endangered, or just a step away from being extinct, on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
The Leuser ecosystem is home to some 710 animal species, of which 180 have been declared endangered.
It is also the only place where the Sumatran rhino, Sumatran orangutan, Sumatran tiger, Sumatran elephant and Malayan sun bears, all endangered species, live side-by-side in the wild.