Last month conservationists praised the first contact with a critically endangered Sumatran rhino in 40 years. But hope dissolved when the rhino, who was christened Najaq, passed away this week. She appears to have died from an infection instigated by a poaching attempt before her capture, though the exact cause of death remains unknown.
It turns out that conservationists actually spotted Najaq on camera traps last fall, with a noose rope around one of her hind feet. The rope caused “severe injuries,” according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia. Her capture then was part of an effort to provide life-saving treatment. Upon capture, she was given antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medicine, and vitamins, under the care of a team of veterinarians from five organizations including the WWF. Experts from an Australia zoo and Cornell University provided additional advice.
For a time it appeared Najaq might recover, as she was eating “quite a lot,” but then her infection worsened.
WWF Indonesia Director of Conservation Arnold Sitompul said, “This [death] demonstrates the threats faced by the Sumatran rhino and underscores why we need to continue our efforts with the strong support of the government and other experts to save the remaining population of Sumatran rhinos in the area.”
Conservationists estimate that less than 100 Sumatran rhinos remain alive. Najaq had been transported to the sanctuary, which was about 90 miles away from where she was found, a location considered too close to mines and plantations to be safe. Conservationists had also hoped she’d be safe from further poaching attempts at the sanctuary.
A pending autopsy is expected to provide further insight into why exactly Najaq died. Meanwhile, conservationists say they will continue to work to save the few remaining Sumatran rhinos in Indonesian Borneo.
Images courtesy of World Wildlife Fund