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Endangered Sumatran Rhinos

written by: Terrie Schultz•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 11/16/2010

Sumatran rhinos, the world's smallest species of rhino, are critically endangered due to poaching and habitat destruction.

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    Description of Sumatran Rhinos

    The Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), the smallest species of rhinoceros, is also known as the "hairy rhino" because it is the only rhino species that has a coat of reddish-brown hair and fringed ears. It is also the only species of Asian rhino that has two horns.

    Sumatran Rhino 

    Habitat & Diet

    The preferred habitat of Sumatran rhinos is dense lowland and highland tropical forests. They are browsers, and their diet consists of various types of vegetation including shrubs, leaves, bark, twigs, vines and fruit. They are particularly fond of bamboo, figs and mangoes.

    Sumatran rhinos consume approximately 110 pounds (50 kg) of vegetation daily. They tend to feed in the early morning and in the evening after sunset. During the day, they spend most of their time in wallows, coating themselves with mud, which is thought to cool them and protect them from insects.

    By nature, Sumatran rhinos are solitary rather than herd animals. Each rhino has a home territory that is crossed by a network of trails, which lead to wallows, salt licks, and preferred feeding areas. The home ranges of individual rhinos overlap and they may share the same feeding areas. While they mark their territory with excrement and by scraping soil and bending saplings, the male rhinos do not appear to fight over territory.


    Male Sumatran rhinos reach sexual maturity at 10 years of age, while females mature at 6 to 7 years. Females give birth to one calf every 3 years, after a 15-16 month gestation period. The calf stays with its mother for about 18 months, until the next calf is born. Breeding Sumatran rhinos in captivity has not been successful. In the wild, the life span for the Sumatran rhino is thought to be 35-40 years. The oldest rhino in captivity lived for over 32 years.

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    Endangered Status of Sumatran Rhinos

    Historically, the range of Sumatran rhinos extended in the north from India, Bangladesh and Myanmar through Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, and continued through Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. Today, there are only an estimated 200-300 remaining Sumatran rhinos left in the wild, located in isolated areas of peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. Those on Borneo are a subspecies.

    The Sumatran rhino is on the IUCN Red List as critically endangered. It is estimated that in the past 15 years, their numbers have declined by half. They have no known predators other than humans, and the two main threats to these rhinos are poaching and habitat loss.

    Conservation efforts to save the remaining Sumatran rhinos include stopping illegal trade of rhino horns, and preserving the remaining habitat.

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    International Rhino Foundation

    World Wildlife Fund

    Endangered Animals of the World

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