Sumatran Rhino

Common Name: Sumatran Rhinoceros
Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Rhinoceridae
Genus: Dicerorhinus
Species: Dicerorhinus sumatrensis

photo:  Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens


The Sumatran rhino's scientific name is Dicerorhinus sumatrensis, which means "two nose-horns belonging to Sumatra".  The Sumatran rhinoceros is a member of the rhino family, Rhinoceridae in the Mammalian Order of Perissodactyla. All other living species of rhino are also members of Rhinoceridae. Other Perissodactyls include tapirs and horses.


photo:  Liz Lange

The Sumatran rhino is believed to have been more closely related to the now extinct woolly rhinoceros than to any of the presently living species. Similarities to this prehistoric beast are quite obvious. Unlike the four other rhino species, the Sumatran rhino is covered in shaggy brown hair. Its two horns are also much smaller and less pronounced than the other species. The two African species lack front teeth entirely, while the other two Asian species (Indian and Javan) still possess incisors. Sumatran rhinos retain their canines as well.

The Sumatran rhino is the smallest living rhino, ranging from 1300-1700lbs (600-800kg) and standing 5ft tall at the shoulder. Males and females are relatively the same size. Females have much smaller horns than males.


photo:  Liz Lange


Sumatran Rhino Habitat/Diet

Found primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia, the Sumatran rhino prefers tropical rainforests and mossy mountain forests. Both lowland and highland forests are inhabited. These ecosystems provide Sumatran rhinos with the fruit, leaves, twigs, and bark they prefer to eat.


Sumatran Rhino Behavior/Reproduction

Sumatran rhinos are primarily solitary animals, except for females with their calves. Females have territories, which include a water source and feeding area. This territory is shared by a few animals. Males are nomadic, following along riverbeds and game trails. Some seasonal migration has been observed, with animals moving to the highlands while the lowlands are flooded, and returning to the lowlands when the weather is cool and the rains subside. Sumatran rhinos spend most of their time wallowing in water and mud to keep insects from biting their sensitive skin. They are good swimmers, and a Sumatran rhino swimming in the ocean has been observed. As a species that inhabits the highlands, the Sumatran rhino is also a good climber.

photo:  Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens

No defined breeding season has been observed. Competition for females is characterized by males battling each other with their canines. Gestation is 16 months long. Calves are precocial at birth, walking shortly after. After about two years they leave their mother. Females reach sexual maturity at 4 years, while males sexually mature at 7 years of age. The Sumatran rhino lives to about 30 years of age.

Sumatran Rhino Conservation

The Sumatran rhino's former range spread throughout Asia, from the Indian subcontinent and the southeast peninsular region to Indonesia and Malaysia. Unfortunately, due to the demand for rhino horn in Oriental medicines and deforestation, the Sumatran rhino is critically endangered. Fewer than 300 individuals remain alive. The populations that still exist live in scattered pockets throughout Southeast Asia. Local governments have organized protected areas for the Sumatran rhino, but poaching is an ever present threat. To curb the decline in this species population, a captive breeding program has been instituted. The Cincinnati Zoo has successfully bred Sumatran rhinos leading to a successful birth.

Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.