The fight to save Earth’s smallest rhino in the jungles of Sumatra
Deep from within the Indonesian jungle a solitary, seldom seen forest giant emerges from the undergrowth.
It is a Sumatran rhino, one of the rarest large mammals on Earth.
There are no more than 100 left on the entire planet and Andatu — a 4-year old male — is one of the last remaining hopes for the future of the species.
He is part of a special breeding program at Way Kambas National Park in eastern Sumatra that is trying to save this critically endangered species from disappearing forever.
The animals are so rarely seen that even villagers living near the park were stunned when a wild rhino wandered into their community.
“They thought it was a mythical creature,” said Zulfi Arsan, head veterinary surgeon at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary at Way Kambas.
“They chased her, and so we had to rescue her.”
Sumatran rhinos are the smallest of all rhinos, and the only Asian variety with two horns.
Unlike their better-known cousins in Africa, Sumatran rhinos are born covered in shaggy, reddish-brown fur, earning them the nickname “hairy rhino”.
Their woolly covering fades to black or disappears almost entirely over their lifetimes, which span 35 to 40 years.
This hair — coupled with their smaller stature and short horns — gives Sumatran rhinos like Andatu a gentler, softer appearance than their imposing, armour-plated cousins.
They once roamed the vast, dense forests of Sumatra, Borneo and Malaysia but landclearing and poaching have devastated their numbers.
In 2015, the species was declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia, leaving just tiny herds of two to five rhinos scattered across Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo.
Andatu is close to reaching sexual maturity, and conservationists hope he can play a star role in ensuring the longevity of the species.
“Every birth is a hope,” Arsan said.
Conservationists hope that Andatu can play a star role in saving the Sumatran rhino, which is a critically endangered species.
Phelan Moonsong argued that his goat horns, which act as his ‘spiritual antennae’, didn’t obscure his face.