Conservationists have said swift action must be taken if the remaining population of wild Sumatran rhinoceros is to be saved. The population of the species has fallen drastically over the past few decades, dropping from 600 in 1985 to less than 100 in 2013, located in just three areas in Sumatra and another in Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) Indonesia Program – who conducted the latest survey – say increased protection of the animal is needed, as they continue to be hunted for their horn.
The researchers identify five "Intensive Protection Zones" within the areas the type of rhino lives, which should be established to ensure there is no poaching by "significantly scaling-up law enforcement efforts". New roads are planned to be constructed in two of these areas but the researchers urge authorities to cancel these plans.
Lead author Wulan Pusparini, a UMass Amherst environmental conservation doctoral student who also works for the WCS, wrote in the study published in PLOS One: "Sumatran rhinos can still be saved in the wild, but we must secure these protection zones, which would require significant investments in additional law enforcement personnel.
"With so many unknowns on how to manage Sumatran rhinos, in the wild or captivity, our study definitely shows where we must protect them at source."
Joe Walston, WCS's vice president for global programmes, said: "For the first time we have a clear idea of where the priority rhino's sites are, we have the tools and techniques to protect them, and now must ensure a concerted effort by all agencies to bring the Sumatran rhino back from the brink of extinction."