Malaysian Beauties Ep02 Sumatran Rhino

*Warning: there are graphic photos of mutilated rhinos after being poached for their horn. If you cannot take such gruesome sights then it is advised you not scroll down or you can watch the video where I tell you to skip to the appropriate time in order to skip those photos but still be able to learn more about them.

Sumatran Rhinoceros are the smallest of the rhino species but it’s still a big animal. Typically, a mature Sumatran rhino stands about 130cm high (4”3 ft). Like it’s African counterpart, it has two horns; the larger is the nasal horn, while the other horn is typically a stub. A coat of reddish-brown hair covers most of the Sumatran rhino's body although it can range from having it’s entire body covered with fur.

They are only found in Malaysia and Indonesia. They are also known as the Asian Two-Horned and Hairy Rhinoceros. Because of morphological similarities, the Sumatran rhinoceros is believed to be closely related to the extinct woolly rhinoceros. Please allow me to take a little detour and show you it’s ancestors. I think it’s always interesting to know where they came from.
a book I bought in a book sale about prehistoric creatures
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs & Prehistoric Creatures by Barry Cox, R.J.G. Savage, Brian Gardiner and Colin Harrison

 They live in a variety of forests but prefers lowlands with small hills and valleys. These rhinos spend much of their day in mud wallows which they dig out themselves, to avoid being bitten by insects and protect themselves from the heat.

These animals are incredibly shy and are rarely photographed by camera traps in the wild. The Sumatran rhino is found in a wide variety of habitats, from lowland rainforests and swamps to mountain moss forests. It seems to prefer hilly areas near water, particularly steep upper valleys with thick undergrowth, as well as secondary forest where the upper canopy is broken and the smaller shrubs and vines which it feeds on are more plentiful. The Sumatran rhino can climb up and down steep slopes with great agility. It swims well and has been known to swim in the sea.
Males are usually solitary, while females are found in mother-offspring groups.

Sumatran rhinos are solitary animals that only come together to breed. Gestation is 475 days with one calf per birth. The calf is covered with a dense coat of reddish hair. Calves, weaned at 18 months, stay close to their mother for 2 to 3 years. A birth interval between calves is 3 to 4 years. Females reach sexual maturity at 4 years while it takes males 7 years.  Captive rhinos live to around 35 years.

I did not plan on painting a Sumatran Rhino at first but in late August, I received news of their condition in the wild. Their conservation status, if you can imagine….. They fall into the EW category (Extinct in the wild) I can’t fathom how a population that was once healthy dwindled to only three in captivity. Their dramatic decrease in numbers is due to the typical causes of extinction; Hunted by poachers for their “supposed” medical benefits and Large conversions of forest.

Rhino horns have always been in demand mostly for their “medicinal” values, but also for a status of wealth and success or even trophy hunting and the use of horn carvings such as dagger handles. I think it’s pure evil to take someone’s desperation to make money out of it. Some people believe that rhino horn can cure cancer. To obtain the horn, poachers will shoot the rhino to bring it down then they use machetes to hack the face of the rhino in order to grab at the horn. Which means half of it’s face is practically gone. Some will still be alive while their face is being hacked off and are just left there to bleed out. Most of them die which comes to no surprise at how severe the wounds are. The photos I’m about to show you contains graphic content so look away or fast forward if you cannot look at mutilated faces of animals but if you want to know the truth of the consequences of the horn trade… Then by all means.

*these photos of mutilated rhinos are not Sumatran but the White Rhino. However, it's needless to say that any kind of rhino is being hunted for their horn and Sumatran Rhinos are no exception to it either. These photos help give the idea of what goes on in the rhino horn trade. 

Namibia was the first country to use dehorning to protect rhinos from poaching. It makes sense to a certain extent, it reduces the chances of rhinos to be killed. However, it has it’s cons such as poachers still target dehorned rhinos, maybe because to take whatever little horn remained on the rhino’s nose. They may kill them out of spite, to avoid tracking them again. It could also be because they couldn’t see through thick bushes if they had their horns. The horns will grow over time. But it’s regrowth is not as handsome as before. Its also a risky procedure to carry out the dehorning of a rhino. And what happens to all the horn that was sawed off? They could be destroyed or  more likely to be stockpiled by owners awaiting the potential legalisation of the trade which defeats it’s entire purpose.

The three known rhinos in captivity in Sabah is a male and two female. The male being Kretam a.k.a. Tam now approximately 25 years old and the females being Gelogob and Puntung.  They were captured in the wild in hopes to help reproduce their number. At first, you may have given thought that  a male and females?  That’ll work! Unfortunately, life is never quite as easy as that. The former female is in an old age, is almost post-productive status. The latter being a potential mate for Tam. However she suffers from snare wound that has removed part of her lower leg so this may be unable to bear the weight of the male for natural mating. Also, because Sumatran rhino’s numbers have dwindled dramatically and they are so rare in the wild, they don’t practice the ritual of reproduction and this has somehow atrophied the female’s reproductive tract which can negate any form fertilisation to happen however her womb is still capable of homing an infant. Thave been several attempts to collect and cryopreserve sperm from Tam but to date, there has been no high quality samples obtained.


You may have asked why they never tried to save this species sooner? Well, they tried in 1984. A program was held that brought 40 Sumatran rhinos into captivity with the goal of preserving the species. It was not successful as most rhinos died and no offspring was produced for nearly 20 years! But we should not give up hope.  A signed agreement by the governments of rhino ranged countries in Asia which could help them from being extinct. Most of it takes place in Way Kambas National Park in Indonesia. They have a Rhino Protection Unit, their scene is one of the most successful in Southeast Asia. They work on the ground to clear traps, track illegal activity and collect intelligence. The tricky part, of course, is breeding them. The solution is to bring whatever remaining Sumatran Rhinos from outside into Way Kambas National Park as its an ideal habitat for the rhinos to browse and to also needs support from the outside. The wild population has been showing signs of growth and the sanctuary is one of the few successes world wide. In 2012, a male rhino was born, he was named Adantu which means “gift from God” and he really brought hope for the species and captured the attention of online viewers via Youtube and he even has his own Facebook page which I shall provide a link below. Internation Rhino Foundation is also welcoming a new Sumatran rhino baby in 2016! The project does not guarantee success and will be time and money consuming which is why they need all the help they can get.

I hope you found this information helpful. if you’d like to find out more about my paintings and photos, please follow me on Youtube, Facebook, Deviantart, Blogspot and Google+

Thank you for reading!

*Rhinoceros horns don't contain ivory, which is a hard, white material found in animal teeth and tusks. A rhinoceros' horn consists of keratin, the protein found in hair and animal hooves, and deposits of calcium and melanin

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