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Genetic study offers good news for endangered Sumatran rhinoceros

Published: 3rd May, 2021

A genome study involving the last remaining populations of the Sumatran rhinoceros — a solitary rainforest dweller — is providing what scientists called good news about the prospects of saving this critically endangered species from extinction.


Key-highlights of the study

  • The study found that the two existing wild populations of this rhino on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra boast unexpectedly good genetic health and surprisingly low levels of inbreeding.
  • Only about 80 of the rhinos remain after a separate population on the Malaysian Peninsula went extinct in recent years.
  • The Sumatran rhinoceros — the closest living relative to the woolly rhinoceros that was among the notable species of the last Ice Age — is known for its two small horns and a thin coat of reddish-brown hair.
  • With such small population sizes, much higher inbreeding can be expected in extant populations of Sumatran rhinoceros.

Sumatran rhinoceros

  • The Sumatran rhinoceros is the smallest of the world’s five rhinoceros species, at around 1,540 to 1,760 pounds (700 to 800 kg).
    • Scientific name: Dicerorhinus sumatrensis
    • Family: Rhinocerotidae
    • Kingdom: Animalia
    • Order: Perissodactyla
    • Phylum: Chordata
    • Class: Mammalia
  • The elusive rainforest inhabitant, the most vocal rhino species, remains solitary except for mating and rearing offspring.
  • It once had a wide range in Southeast Asia, from the foothills of the Himalayas down to Borneo and Sumatra.

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