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Rare Sumatran Rhino Dies Days After Being Rescued

Apr 07, 2016 04:50 AM EDT

The world mourns the death of a rare Sumatran rhino which recently died in Indonesia after being rescued a few weeks ago.

Last month, rhino conservationists were beyond thrilled after they spotted a Sumatran rhino in Kalimantan, Indonesia, long thought to be already extinct in the area. WWF then declared in a press release that they successfully and safely rescued the rhino from the wild. 

The nonprofit organization considered this a milestone for Sumatran rhino conservation in Indonesia, as this was the first sighting in 40 years.

The rhino named Najaq was about four to five years old and was captured in Kutai Barat in East Kalimantan on March 12.

But the excitement felt by the conservationists was abruptly replaced by grief when the rescued Sumatran rhino died last month as well.

In another press release by WWF, they said the cause of death is still being determined. 

"There are indications that the rhino was suffering from a severe infection caused by snares from an earlier poaching attempt," WWF said. 

In a report by National Geographic, Indonesia's environment minister said, "Najaq succumbed to a leg infection after her health deteriorated over the past few days."

The Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is considered the smallest in the rhino family. They are mostly found in Malaysia, Indonesia and probably in Myanmar. 

These animals weigh about 1,760 pounds or 800 kilograms. Their height can go as high as 5 feet or 1.5 meters. What makes them distinct from other rhino breeds are the patches of short, dark and stiff hair covering its body. Their horns are considerably shorter, too.

Although WWF laments the death of the Sumatran rhino, they are now more committed to continuing and further developing their methods towards a more successful rhino conservation drive. 

From the same report, Carlos Drews, Director of WWF International Global Species Programme, said, "We now know that there are more Sumatran rhinos in this region and we will work to protect the remaining individuals. This was the first physical contact with the species in the area for over 40 years; we will make great efforts to make sure that it is not the last." 

Arnold Sitompul, WWF-Indonesia Conservation Director, said that the rhino's passing is a reminder that there are still a lot of challenges along the way. He highlighted the need to continue the efforts to protect this rare breed, with support from the government and experts in the field. 

Although this can be considered a blow to their efforts in rhino preservation, concrete plans are being executed by various groups to help the rhino conservation efforts in Indonesia. 

"It is our hope that the next rhino captured in Kalimantan will be sent to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary where it can be cared for in a permanent facility by experienced veterinarians and keepers," said The International Rhino Foundation in an interview. 

They are also looking at a so-called "Sumatran rhino metapopulation management strategy" to help identify the actual Sumatran Rhino population in Indonesia and develop long-term plans for their conservation.

Conservationists said this death means there could be more threat to the existing Sumatran rhino population. In 2010, the University of Copenhagen published a study saying there are less than a hundred of Sumatran rhinos in the Indonesian jungle. 

Rasmus Gren Havmøller from the University of Copenhagen shared to National Geographic his thoughts on how to conserve the Sumatran rhinos. To be able to save the remaining number of this species, Indonesia should be firm in putting a halt on poaching. 

Also, breeding should be adamantly pushed if they will be successful in rescuing and identifying the existing rhinos in the wild.

Like WWF, everyone involved in the conservation should take the death of this Sumatran rhino as a reminder to work doubly hard to help the endangered species from being extinct.

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