Photo taken by Stephen Belcher at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra Indonesia, April 2009.
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II
I was lucky enough to get permission to visit the SRS (Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary) in April 2009.
A hot sticky rain forest may seem like the last place to find a distant relative of the woolly rhino but here I was in Sumatra listening to the cracking of branches as it moved towards me. As it got closer I remembered what Inov my guide from the IRF (International Rhino Foundation) told me earlier, this rhino had broken the arm of the IRF president a month earlier. Being stuck knee high in mud doesn’t leave much room for manoeuvring so I just stayed still. Out of the thick forest in front of me emerged a female Sumatran rhino, she stopped and raised her head to smell the air and them moved towards me. Thinking this was a good time to get out of the way of an inquisitive 400 kg rhino I made for the nearest tree and stood behind it. As she moved passed she looked like she had a size too big a suit of skin. The Sumatran rhino has a distinct skin fold over its shoulders and the skin seems to almost ride over the body. Using her strong legs she pushed back into the jungle.
An unique feature about the Sumatran Rhino is that it is very vocal. They make 3 distinct calls. Eeps, whales and whistle-blows. The “whale “ call is so named because it sounds like the call of a humpback whale (Perhaps another name for these small-endangered rhinos might be the Humpbacks of the Jungle). I can vouch for this personally. One rhino, Rosa (a female wild rhino at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary) will do this for sometime and I was able to call back to her while trekking and photographing her in thick jungle, holding a “conversation” with her for more than 30 minutes, something I didn’t expect to be able to do! The purpose of these calls is not fully understood, they are most likely to help the rhinos communicate with other individuals (they are solitary animals) in the thick forest.