Bornean Rhinoceros

By Rani Iyer

Bornean Rhinoceros

Scientific Name: Dicerorhinus sumatrensis

What weighs close to a ton, but is disappearing? No, it is not a trick question. This is the truth about a species that will soon be lost forever. The Bornean Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is critically endangered with less than 250 individuals alive today.

The Bornean Rhinoceros is also known as the Sumatran Rhinoceros. At one time, they were found in rainforests, swamps, and cloud forests ranging from India to China and several countries in between. Today, you can count their population on your finger tips—Sumatra holds four populations, and there are one each on Borneo and Malay Peninsula.

Unlike other forest creatures, the Bornean Rhinoceros requires lot water. It needs rivers to create mud pools in which it can wallow. In the afternoon, when it is hot, the Bornean Rhinoceros spends 2 to 3 hours in the mud pool.

Wonder why the rhino needs to wallow? In zoos, rhinos that don’t get enough ‘wallow time’ quickly develop eye problems, inflamed nails, and rashes on the skin. And there is no mud layer to protect the skin when the insects and parasites attack it.

A Bornean Rhino also needs huge area, about 50 square kilometers (19 square miles) for an adult male. The range includes large stretches on rivers and river banks and forest areas. Sumatran Rhinos are strong swimmers. They can cross river that are about 5 feet deep (1.5 meters). This comes in handy when they change their wallow spot after 2 weeks and make or find a new one.

The Bornean Rhino needs to eat 50 kgs (110 lbs) of leaves, fruits, and bark every day. Not a picky eater, the diet can be any of the forest plants. The Bornean Rhino is one unique species that requires both rivers and forests to survive.

Bornean Rhinos are solitary creatures. They share their territory with elephants and tigers. To communicate with other rhinos they can sing. Their song sounds very much like the song of a humpback whale. They can also yelp and whistle. The whistle is heard over long distances.

The Bornean Rhinos have two horns and poached for those. Some people believe it has miraculous curing properties. Individuals that escape poachers face danger due to illegal timber harvest. Breeding programs for the Bornean Rhinos have also failed. Therefore we need to save the forests and rivers. That is the only way the Bornean Rhino will survive.

Teaching Resources - here are some ideas to incorporate the Bornean rhino in lessons:

The Borneo Rhino Alliance

The Heart of the Borneo Project with lesson plans for all ages

Endangered species lesson plan

African Rhino lesson plan that can be modified for the Bornean Rhinoceros

Face-to-face with what may be the last of the world's smallest rhino, the Bornean rhinoceros

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