It took a great deal of planning and then eight long months of waiting. The trap had been carefully set, but there was no rushing their target. She did not know she was being followed, nor would she have cared. A Sumatran rhino works on its own time.

The conservationists were waiting, waiting, waiting, and when it finally happened, it happened unexpectedly. The 770‑kilogram (1,700‑pound) Sumatran rhino stepped onto a leafy spot on the forest floor and fell into a shallow pit. The conservationists had dug that pit and covered it with branches and leaves. Believe it or not, this kind of trap is the safest and most effective method for catching a rhino. But why did a team of conservationists want to trap a rhino?

It’s all part of a plan—a multinational plan to save the Sumatran rhino from extinction. It’s called the Sumatran Rhino Rescue.

The Sumatran rhinoceros is the smallest of the rhino family.

This rhino is now living in the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary and is safe from poachers.

Rhinos in Trouble

All five species of Earth’s rhinoceroses are threatened with extinction. Yet, the Sumatran rhino is the most endangered of all rhino species. Largely due to poaching, the number of Sumatran rhinos has decreased more than 70 percent over the past 20 years.

Rhinos are killed for their valuable horns, which have been used for centuries in traditional Asian medicine. Powdered rhino horn is prescribed by Asian doctors as a cure for everything from asthma to chicken pox to nosebleeds to snakebites. Although there’s no proof that rhino horns have any medicinal effect, that doesn’t stop people from wanting them. Rhino horns can sell for prices that rival gold.

Experts now think there are only
80 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild.
These remaining rhinos are split into 10 small populations between the islands of Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo. They have become so few in number that they are almost never seen. Their isolation currently poses the greatest threat to their existence.

A Rescue Plan

The Sumatran Rhino Rescue plan is to safely capture as many wild rhinos as possible and then transfer them to nearby sanctuaries where scientists can assist in their reproduction.

A conservationist measures a rhino track.

Right now, there’s only one place where that can happen. It’s called the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary. It was built by the International Rhino Foundation in a place called Way Kambas National Park in South Sumatra.

This isn’t the first time that conservationists have tried this. As far back as the 1980s, rhinos were being rounded up for the purpose of captive breeding. The program struggled, though. Not enough was known about these rhinos to help them reproduce.

Sumatran rhinos are solitary animals. They cannot be housed together. A rhino’s pregnancy lasts about 15 months. The only land animals with longer pregnancies are elephants, which carry their babies for about 22 months. However, if female rhinos go too long without breeding, they develop problems that can prevent successful pregnancies.


Protect The Natural World

Protecting the planet is vital! The National Geographic Society has set a goal to help improve the status of 100 species or populations by 2030.