The elusive Borneo rhino has been caught on camera in the wild for the first time, WWF and Malaysia's Sabah Wildlife Department announced on Tuesday.
The two-minute video showing one of the world's rarest rhinos eating, walking to the camera and sniffing the equipment was captured by a camera trap positioned in the jungle.
Scientists estimate there are only between 25 and 50 rhinos left on the island of Borneo. These last survivors of the Bornean subspecies of Sumatran rhinos are believed to remain only in the interior forests of Sabah, an area known as the "Heart of Borneo."
The rhinos are so secretive that the first-ever still photo of one was captured last year.
The Deputy Director of Species Programmes at WWF Indonesia, Hadi Alikodra, said,
"The camera trap in Sabah showed the rhino seen in the video while it was moving and looking for food. This is a good start to learn how to protect and observe rhinos in order to ensure their safety".
The rhinos in Sabah spend their lives in dense jungle where they are rarely seen, which accounts for the lack of any previous photographs of them in the wild.
On Borneo, there have been no confirmed reports of rhinos apart from those in Sabah for almost 20 years, leading experts to fear that the species may now be extinct on the rest of the island.
Major threats include poaching, illegal encroachment into key rhino habitats, and the fact that the remaining rhinos are so isolated that they may rarely or never meet to breed.
"The rhino population in Sabah is very fragile and limited because it is not a big herd of these animals. The small population of rhinos there is a sign of a fragmented habitat, and apparently local residents are farming into the forest in that region. It is very likely that this rhino we see is separated from those living inside the forest", said the Deputy Director of Species Programmes at WWF Indonesia, Hadi Alikodra.
The rhinos found on Borneo are regarded as a subspecies of the Sumatran rhinos, which means they have different physical characteristics to rhinos found in Sumatra (Indonesia) and Peninsular Malaysia.
The Sumatran rhino is one of the world's most critically endangered species, with small numbers found only in Sumatra (Indonesia), Sabah (on the northern end of Borneo) and the Malaysian peninsular.
Conservationists hope that the population is viable and will be able to reproduce if protected from poaching.
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