Borneo Sumatran rhinoceros

Once widespread over Borneo, the Borneo Sumatran rhino is now possibly extinct throughout most of the island.
 / ©: / Andy Rouse / WWF
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© / Andy Rouse / WWF
First-ever camera trap photo of a Sumatran rhinoceros in the wild on the island of Borneo. The camera trap had been set up by the WWF AREAS programme in the Bornean jungle of Sabah.
© WWF-Malaysia / Raymond Alfred

A few rhinos on a very big island

  • Common Names

    Borneo Sumatran rhinoceros; Rhinocéros de Sumatra(Fr); Rinoceronte de Sumatra (Sp)

  • Scientific Name

    Dicerorhinus sumatrensis harrissoni

  • Location

    Northern Borneo

  • Status

    Critically Endangered


  • Population

    Perhaps fewer than 25

Population & distribution

Previous population & distribution
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Borneo subpsecies of the Sumatran rhinoceros was widespread over the island of Borneo.

The subspecies suffered a serious decline in distribution and numbers due to prolonged illegal hunting.

By the early 1980s, loss of forest habitat through conversion to permanent agriculture – particularly palm oil plantations – had become another significant threat.

Current population & distribution
The Borneo Sumatran rhino is now possibly extinct in Sarawak (Malaysia) and Kalimantan (Indonesia), with perhaps fewer than 25 surviving in Sabah (Malaysia). A 2005 survey in the interior of Sabah found evidence of at least 13 rhinos, and scattered individuals are found in other parts of the state.

Only two populations with good prospects
Only two areas in Sabah (Tabin and the Ulu Segama-Kuamut area) contain rhino populations which have good prospects of long-term survival with adequate protection and management.

The Tabin population was under pressure from forest loss and was afforded protection by the Sabah government in 1984 through the establishment of the 1,225 km² Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

The Ulu Segama-Kuamut population is scattered through a vast area of several contiguous forest reserves, but probably centered within an area of less than 4,000 km² in the catchment areas of the upper Segama and upper Kuamut Rivers. This latter area includes the Danum Valley and Maliau Basin Conservation areas in the Sabah Foundation's 100-year logging concession.


Major habitat type
Dense highland and lowland tropical and sub-tropical forests

Biogeographic realm

Range States
Malaysia (Sabah)

Geographical Location
Northern Borneo

Ecological Region
Borneo Lowland and Montane Forests
Sabah (Borneo), Malaysia. Felled forest burnt to plant first crop of Palm oil on estate. Sabah, ... / ©: WWF / Sylvia Jane YORATH
Felled forest burnt to plant first crop of oil palm on estate. Sabah (Borneo), Malaysia.
© WWF / Sylvia Jane YORATH
Locating the rhinos
Surveys have been conducted at both these sites, and the population is known to range down to the border between Sabah and East Kalimantan where surveys have also been conducted recently. A small population has been identified in the Kulamba Wildlife Reserve, and isolated individuals have been identified up until at least 1998 in several other areas, including Pangi Forest Reserve in the Lower Kinabatangan.

Two other areas known to contain rhinos may possibly prove to be important for the species' conservation: the Segaluid-Lokan/Deramakot/Tangkulap Forest Reserves and the Muruk Miau area adjacent to the border with East Kalimantan. Both, however, have been subject to recent disturbance, either by fragmentation or by commercial logging.


Both habitat loss and poaching continue to be major threats to the Borneo Sumatran rhino.

The creation of access roads deep into the rhino's forest home led to an influx of poachers who target rhinos, especially in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve and several areas adjacent to the Danum Valley Forest Reserve.
 / ©: Salmiah Abu
Stephen Hogg, WWF-Malaysia, developing the video camera trap used to capture the Borneo rhino on film.
© Salmiah Abu
WWF, Malaysia's Sabah Wildlife Department and Forestry Department and SOS Rhino are currently conducting on-the-ground monitoring to protect key rhino habitat in Sabah. Through video camera traps, in 2007 WWF and Malaysia’s Sabah Wildlife Department captured the first-ever footage showing the behaviour of Borneo Sumatran rhinos in the wild.

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