May 10, 2022


Enhancing Environmental Law, Solidarity & Climate Justice


Speciesism: Business activities and weak laws in focus as the Sumatran Rhino goes extinct in Malaysia

The Sumatran Rhinoceros, known as the world’s smallest rhino, has become extinct in Malaysia.

By Lenin Tinashe Chisaira

The Sumatran Rhinoceros, known as the world’s smallest rhino, has become extinct in Malaysia. On Saturday 23 November 2019, the last female Sumatran Rhino in Malaysia, named Iman died. This information is according to zoologists. The animal was in captivity.

Wildlife is mainly threatened by human and commercial activity expansion which encroaches into forests, swamps, rivers and other animal habitats. This threat is felt all over the world where there is a search for resources by businesses. 

In Malaysia, the expansion of the palm oil industry is a significant threat to rainforests. These forests are wildlife habitats. Sadly, the situation is ongoing all over the world as other rainforests such as the Amazon in Latin America and the Congo Rainforest in Sub-Saharan Africa are also facing considerable threats from expanding capitalist demands for agricultural or mining lands.

Worldwide, the numbers of Sumatran Rhinos (Scientific name:  Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) are now less than 100, according to some estimates the number has been pout at 80.

Historically before the rise of destructive capitalism, the Sumatran rhino ranged across most of Asia and was found in India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and China. Currently, the species is likely only left in a few parts of Indonesia. The rhino is listed as an Appendix I animal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES Convention); hence, it cannot be commercially traded.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) expressed concern over the latest extension in Malaysia.

“Malaysia was once regarded as one of the last strongholds for Sumatran rhinos, thus losing them from this country presents a major blow to the survival prospects of the species. With the ongoing poaching crisis, escalating population decline and destruction of suitable habitat, extinction of the Sumatran rhino in the near future is becoming increasingly likely. The Indonesian Government urgently needs to develop intensive protection zones with significantly enhanced security enforcement in all sites where Sumatran rhinos still occur,” said a senior member of the IUCN.

States must craft strong legislation to protect wildlife from poaching as well as human activity intrusion into traditional wildlife habitats through logging, farming and mining. Mechanisms such as CITES must also be scrutinised to ensure that the main focus is on the preservation of all species rather than mere control of trade.

In Africa, both the black and white rhino are endangered species as a result of poaching and the black market trade in horn from Africa to Asian markets. In 2017 male Northern White Rhino also went extinct after the death in captivity of the rhino named Sudan. Environmental law, animal rights and wildlife conservation organisations such as Advocates4Earth in Southern Africa have been campaigning locally and globally for wildlife protection laws and attitudes. It remains to be seen if these efforts would save wildlife.

(First published on Africa Legal News)