'Momentous Occasion' for One of the Rarest Animals on Earth

Indonesia's captive breeding program spawns new Sumatran rhino
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2022 9:40 AM CDT

(Newser) – Indonesia has just welcomed a bundle of joy in the form of one of the rarest mammals on Earth. A Sumatran rhino was born March 24 in a sanctuary to a mother that had suffered eight miscarriages since she was captured in the wild in 2005 as part of a breeding program, AFP reports. Experts believe a captive breeding program is the only hope to save the critically endangered species, per CNN. No more than 80 Sumatran rhinos are believed to remain in the wild on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and in the Indonesian part of Borneo. The birth brings the total number of rhinos at the sanctuary to eight.

The smallest of all rhino species once roamed across Southeast Asia, but it's now threatened by poaching and habitat destruction. It was declared fully extinct in the wild in Malaysia in 2015, four years before the country's last remaining Sumatran rhino, a female named Iman, died in captivity. Breeding in the wild is difficult with remaining rhinos living "on small pockets of land," per NBC News. Success with captive breeding programs has been limited, with mother Rosa's track record as an example. That's why the birth of the yet-unnamed female, announced by Indonesia's Ministry of Environment, is so significant.

"This is a momentous occasion for a critically imperiled species," says Nina Fascione, executive director of the International Rhino Foundation, per CNN. "We share the excitement of this birth with the world!" It's "such happy news amid the government's and partners' efforts to increase the population," adds Wiratno, a senior environment ministry official who uses one name, per AFP. It's the first birth at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park in a decade and the third overall, per Mongabay.com. The calf's father, Andatu, was the first rhino born at the sanctuary, in 2012. (Read more Sumatran rhino stories.)

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