Australia scuttles funding for endangered rhino

Australia had promised $3 million to help save the Sumatran rhino, one of the world's most critically endangered animals.  But now the conservative Tony Abbott government is breaking that promise, according to The Guardian newspaper.

  Struggling to hang on...  (photo by Bill Konstant, International Rhino Foundation)

Struggling to hang on...  (photo by Bill Konstant, International Rhino Foundation)

Abbott's Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, announced that the commitment--made by the previous Labor government--would not be honored. 

Only 200-300 Sumatran rhinos are estimated to survive today.  One of five living rhino species, it was formerly widely distributed across southern and eastern Asia, but today persists only in a few tiny, relict populations in Sumatra, Borneo and Peninsular Malaysia.

Sumatran rhinos are suffering both from rampant habitat loss--their forest homes are being destroyed faster than just about anywhere else on Earth--and from poaching for rhino horn, which is used in Vietnam and East Asia for traditional medicines and ornaments.

A particular concern is forest loss and road-building in the endangered Leuser Ecosystem and adjoining Aceh region in northern Sumatra, the last stronghold for the species and an issue in which ALERT is playing an active role (see blog below and our associated press release).

The director of the conservation group Wildlife Asia, Claire Campbell, called the decision to cut the funds "potentially pretty devastating for the Sumatran rhino."