With their tremendous size and distinctive horns, rhinos have captivated many of us since childhood. Tragically, the rhino’s most distinguished feature, their horns, are prized for alleged and unfounded medicinal benefits and are traded on the African and Asian black market. In the last decade, nearly 9,000 African rhinos have been killed for this destructive trade, and Asian rhinos have dwindled to near-extinction levels. Additionally, development projects have greatly diminished rhino habitats, which are vital to their continued survival.
But there is hope for rhinos. The Rhino Recovery Fund (RRF) believes with the right support, most rhino species can turn a corner and recover their populations. Created by the Wildlife Conservation Network, with the goal of protecting rhinos from wildlife crime and restoring their landscapes, improving the health of rhino populations, and benefiting local people.
The project is focused on stopping the loss of rhinos in Sumatra. Sumatran rhinos are classified as “critically endangered” and are perilously close to extinction, with only approximately 80 individuals remaining. While the zero-poaching rate for rhinos has been maintained since 1992, poaching remains a threat, along with habitat loss.
The Leuser Ecosystem in northern Sumatra supports the largest, and possibly only, viable population of Sumatran rhinos, which makes Leuser a critically important habitat for this species. Partner organization Leuser Conservation Forum (FKL) is supporting conservation work in the West of the Leuser Ecosystem in the hope of increasing the Sumatran rhino population, restoring the health of the ecosystem and building public awareness and long-term stewardship.
In order to achieve this, FKL will recruit and train more rangers, monitor the biodiversity of the ecosystem, build a reforestation unit and plant seedlings, and create educational materials for local communities. The goal is to take new approaches to rhino conservation that benefit both people and rhinos, and that encourage everyone to embrace rhinos and participate in their recovery.
The Leuser Ecosystem spans the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. Over 35 times the size of Singapore, this majestic and ancient ecosystem covers more than 2.6 million hectares of lowland rainforests, peat swamps, montane and coastal forests, and alpine meadows. Globally recognized as one of the richest expanses of tropical rainforest found anywhere in Southeast Asia, the Leuser Ecosystem is also one of Asia’s largest carbon sinks.
Rhinos play a key role as a keystone species in this priceless ecosystem. Fostering conservation in the region will not only benefit rhinos and local communities but help to stabilize our global climate system.