Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhino died – here are more species on the verge of extinction

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(Jean wimmerlin, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Charlotte Edmond, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhino just died and fewer than 100 now remain in the wild across Asia.
  • Habitat loss, poaching and climate change are contributing to the loss of species around the world.
  • More than a quarter of all species face extinction.

The Sumatran rhino once roamed Asia. Today, fewer than 100 remain – and in fact, some estimates put the number as low as 30.

The last of the species in the country was a 25-year-old female named Iman, who died on the island of Borneo. Malaysia’s last male Sumatran rhino died earlier this year.

 

Characterized by their small size and bristly hair, Sumatran rhinos are one of five rhino species alive today – and they are critically endangered.

Distribution of Sumatran rhinos
The last remaining Sumatran rhinos are spread thin, making it difficult for them to find mates.
Image: WWF

The Sumatran rhino, by far the smallest of the living rhinoceros species, has plummeted in numbers as a result of habitat loss and poaching. However, the biggest threat it faces now is fragmented distribution. With limited opportunities to find a mate, the population continues to decline.

Efforts to breed the animals have proved largely unsuccessful, with just two captive animals reproducing in the last 15 years.

The Sumatran rhino is the most prehistoric of all rhinoceros species and is the most closely related to the now-extinct woolly rhino, which lived in Asia and Europe in the Ice Age. It’s thought the woolly rhino declined rapidly 9,000 years ago due to a climate shift, and the species has struggled to return to full strength.

Across the globe, rhinoceros numbers are declining, and their prized horns have captured poachers’ eyes for decades. The Sumatran rhino’s cousin, The last male northern white rhino, a cousin of the Sumatran rhino, died in 2018 on a reserve in Kenya. In a bizarre twist, its digital form is now roaming a London art exhibition as part of a show called Eco-Visionaries, showcasing art about the climate emergency.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about deforestation?

Halting deforestation is essential to avoiding the worst effects of global climate change.

The destruction of forests creates almost as much greenhouse gas emissions as global road travel, and yet it continues at an alarming rate.

In 2012, we brought together more than 150 partners working in Latin America, West Africa, Central Africa and South-East Asia – to establish the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020: a global public-private partnership to facilitate investment in systemic change.

The Alliance, made up of businesses, governments, civil society, indigenous people, communities and international organizations, helps producers, traders and buyers of commodities often blamed for causing deforestation to achieve deforestation-free supply chains.

The Commodities and Forests Agenda 2020, summarizes the areas in which the most urgent action is needed to eliminate deforestation from global agricultural supply chains.

The Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 is gaining ground on tackling deforestation linked to the production of four commodities: palm oil, beef, soy, and pulp and paper.

Get in touch to join our mission to halt to deforestation.

More than 30,000 species are on the verge of extinction

There are, of course, many less well-known species on the verge of disappearing. For the most part, human interference and global warming are to blame. According to the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, more than 30,000 species are threatened with extinction – that’s 27% of all assessed species.

Mekong giant catfish
The Mekong giant catfish is one species threatened with extinction.
Image: IUCN Red List

Other critically endangered species include the Mekong giant catfish, which has been hit by habitat damage as well as pollution.

The population of the marmot is declining
Logging has driven the decline of the marmot.
Image: IUCN Red List

The cuter but equally threatened Vancouver Island marmot is down to just 90 and continuing to decline.

The Calumma tarzan is indigenous to only two parts of Madagascar
The Calumma tarzan survives in two locations in Madagascar.
Image: IUCN Red List

Habitat destruction, particularly through logging and mining, is also affecting Madagascar’s critically endangered Calumma tarzan, which is one of many reptiles threatened with extinction.

A Wollemi pine tree is one of the declining species of tress
The number of remaining Wollemi pine trees is unknown.
Image: IUCN Red List

We shouldn’t forget that species loss extends to the plant kingdom, as well. One example is the Wollemi pine, which grows in Australia. It’s also on the verge of disappearing.

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