Another Year of Safety for Sumatran Rhinos

IRF-Hope_bh_v1aThe past year will go down as one of the darkest on record for rhinos. We can’t ignore this unfortunate truth.

But amidst all the bad news, there remain glimmers of hope that strengthen our resolve to ensure the survival of rhinos across the globe.

Leading up to the year’s end, we’re going to be sharing stories of rhino conservation that’s working. We’re taking time to celebrate the small victories won by our projects in Africa and Asia, which inspire hope for the future of rhinos.

Another Year of Safety for Sumatran Rhinos

Anti-poaching teams are among the bravest and hardiest people we know. In Sumatra, 12 four-man Rhino Protection Units (RPUs) endure some of toughest conditions on Earth to keep their rhino charges safe. These brave men hike roughly the length of the Appalachian Trail (more than 2,100 miles!) each year in tropical heat, humidity and rain, coping with thousands of blood-thirsty leeches that wiggle their way into shoes, socks, pants and other clothing. Not to mention poisonous snakes, spiders and charging elephants — all in a day’s work.

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More than 60% of the world’s 100 Sumatran rhinos live in just two Indonesian national parks: Bukit Barisan Selatan and Way Kambas. While that sounds like a respectable percentage, the actual number of animals is quite small — perhaps only 50 to 70 individuals.

Over the past few years, poaching has taken a devastating toll on rhinos in southern Africa.

But so far this year, and going back as far as 2006, our Indonesian RPUs have not lost a single Sumatran rhino to poachers.

Even so, we cannot be complacent: we must sustain this program if these critically endangered rhinos are to have a chance for long-term survival.

In 2015, the RPU program in Sumatra will celebrate its 20th anniversary.

The International Rhino Foundation is proud to have been involved since the beginning. Initially, we developed and managed the program and now continue to provide critical support to Yayasan Badak Indonesia (YABI), our in-country implementing partner.

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Seven four-man RPUs patrol Bukit Barisan Selatan, and five are stationed at Way Kambas. These 48 men help ensure the safety not only of Sumatran rhinos, but also of many other threatened species that inhabit the tropical forests of southern Sumatra, including elephants, tigers, tapirs, gibbons and siamangs, sun bears, clouded leopards, and others.

They patrol the forests on foot, motorbike and by boat, collecting evidence of rhino presence and, occasionally, a photo or video of a rhino glimpsed in the thick rainforest. They destroy any traps and snares they discover and arrest suspects for illegal hunting, fishing, trapping birds for the pet trade, logging, collecting non-timber forest products, bringing their livestock into the park to graze, planting crops illegally, setting fires, and other illegal activities.

The RPU program is a success because of your support.

RPUs protect rhinos, but when they’re not out on patrol, they can be found educating local people about their rich biological heritage and training them in ways to increase their income in environmentally friendly ways. They help mitigate conflicts between wildlife and local villagers, such as when elephants destroy crops or tigers attack livestock.

Please help to ensure that Sumatran Rhino Protection Units continue to safeguard the world’s last remaining Sumatran rhinos by making a donation today.

Every gift, large or small helps. Every gift allows us to do more.

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Looking for a unique holiday gift that also inspires hope for Sumatran rhinos? Adopt one of the five rhinos at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary! By symbolically adopting a rhino for yourself or as a gift, you’ll help pay for your rhino’s food and medical care, and you’ll receive an adoption certificate, biographical sketch and photo. Adopt a Sumatran rhino today.

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