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First photograph taken of critically endangered rhino species

BioPhotonics
Jul 2006
A type of Sumatran rhinoceros that lives in the wilds of Sabah, Malaysia, an area called the Heart of Borneo, has been photographed for the first time. Although hundreds of species of rhinos are thought to have existed prehistorically, only five are known to remain today. The photographed animal, whose existence was confirmed during a field survey last year, is a member of a subspecies of the Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis harrissoni). It is thought to be one of only 13 that remain in this subspecies.

This rhino rarely emerges from the jungle and is almost impossible to find in the dense forests that make up the Heart of Borneo. To capture the bashful herbivore on camera, a team of researchers from the World Wildlife Fund, in partnership with Sabah Wildlife Department, set up motion-triggered camera traps in February. The scouting cameras used an infrared trigger to activate the camera’s shutter, and they successfully imaged the rhinoceros in May. Because so few of these rhinos are left, the results were not expected so quickly.

Rhinos are endangered largely because of poaching, deforestation and falling birth rates. The photos are being taken to gain an understanding of the demographics of the remaining rhinos, and they will be used to decide which management practices might be most effective in helping the population to recover.


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