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Sumatran Rhino: Why Is It Endangered?

Sumatran Rhinos are a subspecies of Rhino, and they live only on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. They are the only Asian rhino with a distinctive three-dimensional body shape and dense covering. They are the most threatened rhino species.

  • Status: Critically endangered. 
  • known as: Sumatran Rhino, Hairy rhinoceros.
  • Estimated numbers left in the wild: Less than 275.

They have a smaller head and ears than other rhinos, as well as a slimmer body with longer hair. These species live in leafy rainforests, swamps, and peatlands near water. They are known for having one of the most aggressive personalities among rhinos and are closely related to the Woolly Rhino, a declared extinct rhino.


Sumatran Rhinos (dicerorhinus sumatrensis) are endangered because they mainly inhabit areas affected by deforestation caused by logging companies who clear forested land so that it can be used for agriculture or livestock grazing.

Anatomy and Appearance

The world’s smallest rhinoceros, the Sumatran rhino, is still an imposing beast, weighing an average of 800 kilograms and sometimes attaining 1,000 kilograms. It stands 1.2 to 1.5 meters high and is 2.5 to 3.2 meters long.

Its tough, armored hide – up to 1.6 centimeters thick – sports a coat of reddish-brown hair, which is thickest in calves. Interestingly, this hair is believed to have a cooling function.

Rather than serving as insulation, it allows cooling mud to cling more heavily to the rhino’s skin, besides defending it from bloodsucking insects.

They are two-horned rhinoceros, a solitary creature that lives in thick forests and swampland, including lowland rain forests and cloud forests in the dense tropical forests mountains of Southeast Asia. It must keep cool during the day and spend the daytime in water or mud, often in a wallow created by the rhino.


A majestic Sumatran rhino in its natural habitat.

The Sumatran Rhinoceros conservation breeding program is confined today to Peninsular Malaysia, Northern Sumatra, Eastern Himalayas, and Borneo. However, its range was once far-flung, mainly on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Additional species may live in Myanmar, India, Laos, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesian islands, and Cambodia, but these reports have not been confirmed.

These rhinos live in lowland and mountainous terrain, wherever there is a thick jungle, plenty of water, and their preferred food plants.

See Related: Environmental Organizations in India

Sumatran Rhino Habitat

Sumatran Rhinos live in the rainforests, swamps, lowland tropical, and peatlands of Sumatra. Sumatra is an island located in Indonesia, and it is the only place where they live. These animals prefer habitats that are moist and close to water.

Every rhino’s territory includes a salt lick flock with scattered populations. These animals are quite stealthy despite their size, and even trained scientists have difficulty finding them.

These most threatened rhinos live in areas that have lots of trees and plants, which provide them with food and cover. They are known for being very aggressive animals and often attack if they feel threatened.

Sumatran Rhino Diet and Nutrition

As darkness falls and the temperature drops, the rhino rouses and begins to forage. A herbivore like all of its relative species, the Sumatran eats foliage, fruit, bamboo, and bark.

These animals greatly prize wild mangoes and figs.

Sumatran Rhino Mating Habits

An illustrated sumatran rhino on our endangered world

Sumatran rhinos keep to their territories, and males and females come together only briefly to mate. Piles of dung, sprays of urine, and bent saplings mark the boundaries of these territories. The rhino is an animal that also makes trails that may be used throughout many generations.

Living in a dense jungle environment, these animals are very vocal, yelping and whistling to communicate with each other. Sexual maturity comes between six and eight years, and a calf is born to a healthy female once every four years.

A highly aggressive, young male may sometimes accidentally kill a female while attempting to court her. Sumatran Rhinos are born after a gestation period of 16 months. Calves weigh around 50 kg (110 lbs) and can walk and run shortly after birth.

Sumatran Rhinoceros are weaned at around two years old but will stay with their mothers until they are four or five years old. They reach sexual maturity at six or seven years old, and males will start fighting for dominance over the herd around this age. A Sumatran rhino can live for 30 to 40 years, though most probably have shorter lives in the wild.


The Sumatran Rhino is an elusive, nocturnal animal. It is also one of the most aggressive species of rhinoceros in existence.

They are characterized by long hair and a slim body with a smaller head and ears when compared to other species. The Sumatran Rhino lives in rainforests, swamps, and peatlands close to the water in Sumatra. They can be seen during the day but are usually only active at night.

Role in the Ecosystems

The rhinos are an important part of the ecosystems in which it live. They are browsers, meaning they eat leaves, shoots, and twigs from trees and shrubs. These big mammals are very selective in what they eat and only eat certain vegetation types.

They help to keep the forests healthy by eating the leaves and branches of trees. They also spread seeds through their droppings, which helps to create new forest growth.

Difference to Other Rhino Species

What is different about the Sumatran Rhino and other rhinoceros species like the Javan rhino is that the Sumatran has a distinctive three-dimensional shape. They have a smaller head and ears than the others, as well as a slimmer body with longer hair.

These species live in leafy rainforests, swamps, and peatlands near water. They are known for having one of the most aggressive personalities among the rhino family or species.

Relationship with Humans

Sumatran Rhinos have had a close relationship with humans for centuries. They were once thought to be the reincarnation of a god, and people would pray to them for good luck. They are still used in traditional medicine today.

Some people believe that rhino horns can cure cancer, but no scientific evidence supports this claim. These animals are hunted for meat, and their hides are used to make boots and bags.

Sumatran Rhino Facts

Here are the fascinating facts you need to know about Sumatran Rhinos.

  • They are one of the largest land mammals on earth.
  • They can weigh up to two thousand pounds and stand over six feet tall at the shoulder.
  • They get their name from the Greek word for “nose” because of their distinctive rhino horn shape.
  • There are five species of rhinoceros: white, black, Javan, Sumatran, and Indian.
  • They are the smallest and most endangered of all five species.
  • They are herbivores, and their diet consists mostly of leaves, branches, and fruit.
  • They spend most of their day eating, drinking, and wallowing in mud to cool off.
  • These species can live up to forty years in the wild.
  • The only Sumatran mammals have two horns, one of which is a posterior horn.
  • Sumatrans live in Sumatra, an island in southwest Asia.
  • Sumatra is the 13th largest island, divided between Indonesia and Malaysia.

See Related: African Elephant

Conservation Status

Currently listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. There are only a few Sumatran rhinos left in the world. Sumatran Rhino populations have declined by over 80% in the last three generations, and there are now only 100 left in the wild.

These living rhinoceroses are the closest relatives of the recently extinct Woolly rhinos. Managed conservation breeding facilities offer to conserve these species and are provided by the Asian Rhino Specialist group to help and support global wildlife conservation.


These species face a number of threats, including poaching for a rhinoceros horn, loss of habitat, and conflict with humans. Initiatives to conserve the solitary creatures are ongoing, but more must be done to save this threatened rhino species from extinction.

  • Poaching- Hunting and poaching are the foremost threats to the Sumatran rhino, far ahead of even habitat destruction. As with many species in the region, it is not hunted primarily for its meat but for supposedly medicinal body parts to sate the needs of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The horn is also sold as far afield as the Middle East, where it is used to make dagger hilts. They have been hunted excessively for many years, but poaching today involves a great risk of outright extinction. With less than 300 animals alive, each death not only reduces the number of rhino species alive today available to breed but makes catastrophic inbreeding more likely. It is also to conserve protected areas like Way Kambas National Park.
  • Habitat Loss – Sumatra is one of Indonesia’s most densely populated regions, where these wild rhinos are now hunted for breeding. Sumatra’s rainforests have been cleared to allow palm oil plantations. Losing forest cover impacts the number of these species. This has led to the wide distribution of Sumatra rhinos into smaller groups that are too close together, which can lead to infighting and injuries. The Sumatra Rhino also lives near water where logging operations have flooded swamps and peatlands, not allowing them to live in their preferred habitats.

Conservation efforts

Ham-handed efforts to establish a captive breeding stock nearly extinguished the species, as did the Sumatran rhino rescue effort, though a few young adults have been born in captivity.

Therefore, conservation attempts have shifted totally to stopping poaching from occurring by raising awareness, like what the National Geographic Society does when featuring wildlife.

A protection conservation program is designed to protect rhinos from poaching and hunting. The program will work to increase security for rhinos, and it will also aim to raise awareness among the community about the importance of protecting these animals.

Building the Sumatran rhino sanctuary and building Rhino protection units to prevent wildlife crime were among the best conservation efforts to help these animals.

The reproduction conservation program is a single conservation breeding program designed to help rhinos reproduce more successfully. The Sumatran Rhino Survival Alliance, Sumatran Rhino Rescue, Way Kambas National Park breeding facilities, and other rhino conservation organizations support such a project.

See Related: Conservation vs. Preservation


The Aspinall Foundation

In 1998, The Aspinall Foundation returned wild rhinos to a Sumatra breeding center after spending thirteen years at Port Lympne Park in the UK.

Save the Rhino

Save the Rhino works with local partners in Asia and Africa to protect the five different rhinoceros species. They support anti-poaching activities, monitoring, environmental education, community conservation, translocations, and captive breeding.

International Rhino Foundation

The International Rhino Foundation is a nonprofit organization that also focuses on rhinos. They have been able to fund and create Sumatran Rhino sanctuaries and were the first organization to start an intensive Sumatran Rhino breeding program.

World Wildlife Fund

The World Wildlife Fund is an international non-governmental organization that aims to conserve nature and promote ecologically sustainable development. It was founded in 1961 and is now present in more than 100 countries.

Final Thoughts

Sumatran Rhinos are a subspecies of rhinos and live only on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. They have a distinctive three-dimensional shape to their body, with smaller heads and ears than other species and slimmer bodies with longer hair. This species is known for having one of the most aggressive personalities.

Sumatran rhinos live in solitary and in areas with low density. These species are facing threats such as poaching for horns, loss of habitat, and conflict with humans, leading to a population decline of over 80% in the last three generations. Now, 100 Sumatran rhinos are left in the wild.

The Sumatra Rhino also lives near water where logging operations have flooded swamps and peatlands, not allowing them preferred habitats.


What is Sumatran Rhino?

Sumatran Rhinos (dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is a subspecies of rhinos, one of the world’s most critically endangered species. Sumatra is the only island in Indonesia where they can be found.

They live in leafy rainforests, swamps, and peatlands close to water. These species are known for their aggressive personality.

What does a Sumatran Rhino look like?

Sumatran Rhinos have a distinctive three-dimensional shape to their body, with less pronounced curves in their shoulder area than Indian rhinos. They also have ears much nearer to their eye level than in other species.

Are Sumatran Rhinos endangered?

Sumatran Rhinos are critically endangered, with only an estimated 200 isolated populations of rhinos alive today in Indonesian Borneo lands.

How can I help to save the Sumatran Rhino?

You can help Sumatran Rhinos by protecting them from hunters, stopping rhino horn illegal trade, and other causes like habitat loss.

They are critically endangered due to hunting for their horns, the destruction of their habitat, and retaliatory killings in response to human-animal conflicts. You may also support conservation groups and international unions.

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