Skip to main content

Genetics and the last stand of the Sumatran rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis

  • Benoît Goossens (a1), Milena Salgado-Lynn (a1), Jeffrine J. Rovie-Ryan (a2), Abdul H. Ahmad (a3), Junaidi Payne (a4), Zainal Z. Zainuddin (a4), Senthilvel K. S. S. Nathan (a5) and Laurentius N. Ambu (a5)...

The Sumatran rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis is on the brink of extinction. Although habitat loss and poaching were the reasons of the decline, today's reproductive isolation is the main threat to the survival of the species. Genetic studies have played an important role in identifying conservation priorities, including for rhinoceroses. However, for a species such as the Sumatran rhinoceros, where time is of the essence in preventing extinction, to what extent should genetic and geographical distances be taken into account in deciding the most urgently needed conservation interventions? We propose that the populations of Sumatra and Borneo be considered as a single management unit.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Genetics and the last stand of the Sumatran rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Genetics and the last stand of the Sumatran rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Genetics and the last stand of the Sumatran rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis
      Available formats
Corresponding author
(Corresponding author) E-mail
Hide All
Ahmad Zafir, A.W., Payne, J., Mohamed, A., Lau, C.F., Sharma, D.S.K., Alfred, R. et al. (2011) Now or never: what will it take to save the Sumatran rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis from extinction? Oryx, 45, 225233.
Allendorf, F.W. & Luikart, G. (2007) Conservation and the Genetics of Populations. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK.
Amato, G., Wharton, D., Zainuddin, Z.Z. & Powell, J.R. (1995) Assessment of conservation units for the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis). Zoo Biology, 14, 395402.
Ashley, M.V., Melnick, D.J. & Western, D. (1990) Conservation genetics of the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), I: evidence from the mitochondrial DNA of three populations. Conservation Biology, 4, 7177.
Avise, J.C. & Lansman, R.A. (1983) Polymorphism of mitochondrial DNA in populations of higher animals. In Evolution of Genes and Proteins (eds Nei, M. & Koehn, R.K.), pp. 147164. Sinauer, Sunderland, USA.
Ballard, J.W.O. & Rand, D.M. (2005) The population biology of mitochondrial DNA and its phylogenetic implications. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 36, 621642.
Borneo Post Online (2011) Christmas miracle, healthy female rhino found in Tabin. Borneo Post, 25 December. Http:// [accessed 15 March 2013].
Bouzat, J.L., Johnson, J.A., Toepfer, J.E., Simpson, S.A., Esker, T.L. & Westemeier, R.L. (2008) Beyond the beneficial effects of translocations as an effective tool for the genetic restoration of isolated populations. Conservation Genetics, 10, 191201.
Brook, S., Van Coeverden de Groot, P., Mahood, S. & Long, B. (2011) Extinction of the Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) from Vietnam. WWF-Vietnam.
Caballero, A., Rodríguez-Ramilo, S.T., Ávila, V. & Fernández, J. (2009) Management of genetic diversity of subdivided populations in conservation programmes. Conservation Genetics, 11, 409419.
Cerdeño, E. (1998) Diversity and evolutionary trends of the family Rhinocerotidae (Perissodactyla). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 141, 1334.
Crnokrak, P. & Roff, D.A. (1999) Inbreeding depression in the wild. Heredity, 83, 260270.
DeSalle, R. & Amato, G. (2004) The expansion of conservation genetics. Nature Reviews Genetics, 5, 702712.
Dinerstein, E. (2003) The Return of the Unicorns: The Natural History and Conservation of the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros. Columbia University Press, New York, USA.
Dinerstein, E. & McCracken, G.F. (1990) Endangered greater one-horned rhinoceros carry high levels of genetic variation. Conservation Biology, 4, 417422.
Fernando, P., Polet, G., Foead, N., Ng, L.S., Pastorini, J. & Melnick, D.J. (2006) Genetic diversity, phylogeny and conservation of the Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus). Conservation Genetics, 7, 439448.
Fickel, J., Wagener, A. & Ludwig, A. (2007) Semen cryopreservation and the conservation of endangered species. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 53, 8189.
Foose, T.J. & van Strien, N.J. (1997) Asian Rhinos—Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, UK.
Frankham, R. (2009) Where are we in conservation genetics and where do we need to go? Conservation Genetics, 11, 661663.
Frankham, R., Ballou, J.D. & Briscoe, D.A. (2002) Introduction to Conservation Genetics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
GMPB Technical Committee (2009) Sumatran Rhino Global Management and Propagation Board Meeting 4 & 5 March 2009. Bogor, Indonesia. Http:// [accessed 22 April 2013].
Groves, C.P. (1965) Description of a new subspecies of rhinoceros, from Borneo, Didermocerus sumatrensis harrissoni. Saugetiere Mitteil, 13, 128131.
Groves, C.P. (1967) On the rhinoceroses of South-east Asia. Saugetiere Mitteil, 15, 221237.
Groves, C.P. (1993) Testing rhinoceros subspecies by multivariate analysis. In Rhinoceros Biology and Conservation (ed. Ryder, O.A.), pp. 92100. San Diego Zoological Society, San Diego, USA.
Groves, C.P., Fernando, P. & Robovský, J. (2010) The sixth rhino: a taxonomic re-assessment of the Critically Endangered northern white rhinoceros. PLOS ONE, 5, e9703.
Guerin, C. (1989) La famille des Rhinocerotidae (Mammalia, Perissodactyla): systématique, histoire, évolution, paléoécolgie. Cranium, 2, 314.
Harley, E.H., Baumgarten, I., Cunningham, J. & O'Ryan, C. (2005) Genetic variation and population structure in remnant populations of black rhinoceros, Diceros bicornis, in Africa. Molecular Ecology, 14, 29812990.
Hedrick, P.W. (1995) Gene flow and genetic restoration: the Florida panther as a case study. Conservation Biology, 9, 9961007.
Hedrick, P.W. (2005) ‘Genetic restoration:’ a more comprehensive perspective than ‘genetic rescue’. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 20, 109.
Hedrick, P.W. & Fredrickson, R. (2009) Genetic rescue guidelines with examples from Mexican wolves and Florida panthers. Conservation Genetics, 11, 615626.
Hermes, R., Göritz, F., Saragusty, J., Sós, E., Molnar, V., Reid, C.E. et al. (2009) First successful artificial insemination with frozen-thawed semen in rhinoceros. Theriogenology, 71, 393399.
Hildebrandt, T.B., Hermes, R., Walzer, C., Sós, E., Molnar, V., Mezösi, L. et al. (2007) Artificial insemination in the anoestrous and the postpartum white rhinoceros using GnRH analogue to induce ovulation. Theriogenology, 67, 14731484.
Hogg, J.T., Forbes, S.H., Steele, B.M. & Luikart, G. (2006) Genetic rescue of an insular population of large mammals. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 273, 14911499.
Holt, W.V. & Pickard, A.R. (1999) Role of reproductive technologies and genetic resource banks in animal conservation. Reviews of Reproduction, 4, 143150.
Houck, M., Ryder, O., Vahala, J., Kock, R. & Oosterhuis, J. (1994) Diploid chromosome number and chromosomal variation in the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). Journal of Heredity, 85, 3034.
Hurst, G.D.D. & Jiggins, F.M. (2005) Problems with mitochondrial DNA as a marker in population, phylogeographic and phylogenetic studies: the effects of inherited symbionts. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 272, 15251534.
IUCN (2011) IUCN Red List of Threatened Species v. 2011.2. [accessed 2 January 2012].
Johnson, W.E., Onorato, D.P., Roelke, M.E., Land, E.D., Cunningham, M., Belden, R.C. et al. (2010) Genetic restoration of the Florida panther. Science, 329, 16411645.
Johnston, L. & Lacy, R. (1995) Genome resource banking for species conservation: selection of sperm donors. Cryobiology, 32, 6877.
Khan, M. (1989) Asian Rhinos: An Action Plan for their Conservation. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
Kim, M.H. (2009) The utility of DNA microsatellite markers in conservation of a Namibian population of the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis). MSc thesis. Queen's University, Ontario, Canada.
Laikre, L. (2010) Genetic diversity is overlooked in international conservation policy implementation. Conservation Genetics, 11, 349354.
Maehr, D.S., Lacy, R.C., Land, E.D., Bass, O.K. & Hoctor, T.S. (2002) Evolution of population viability assessments for the Florida panther: A multiperspective approach. In Population Viability Analysis (eds Beissinger, S.R. & McCullough, D.R.), pp. 284311. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.
Morales, J.C., Andau, P.M., Supriatna, J., ZainuddinZ,Z. Z,Z. & Melnick, D.J. (1997) Mitochondrial DNA variability and conservation genetics of the Sumatran rhinoceros. Conservation Biology, 11, 539543.
Morales, J.C. & Melnick, D.J. (1994) Molecular systematics of the living rhinoceros. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 2, 129134.
Moritz, C. (1994) Defining ‘Evolutionarily Significant Units’ for conservation. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 9, 373375.
Moritz, C. (2002) Strategies to protect biological diversity and the evolutionary processes that sustain it. Systematic Biology, 51, 238254.
Nei, M. (1972) Genetic distance between populations. American Naturalist, 106, 283292.
Orlando, L., Leonard, J.A., Thenot, A., Laudet, V., Guerin, C. & Hänni, C. (2003) Ancient DNA analysis reveals woolly rhino evolutionary relationships. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 28, 485499.
Rabinowitz, A. (1995) Helping a species go extinct: the Sumatran rhino in Borneo. Conservation Biology, 9, 482488.
Rubinoff, D. & Holland, B. (2005) Between two extremes: mitochondrial DNA is neither the panacea nor the nemesis of phylogenetic and taxonomic inference. Systematic Biology, 54, 952961.
Ryder, O. (1986) Species conservation and systematics: the dilemma of subspecies. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 1, 910.
Sabah Wildlife Department (2011) Rhinoceros Action Plan. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Scott, C.A. (2008) Microsatellite variability in four contemporary rhinoceros species: implications for conservation. MSc thesis. Queen's University, Ontario, Canada.
Tallmon, D.A., Luikart, G. & Waples, R.S. (2004) The alluring simplicity and complex reality of genetic rescue. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 19, 489496.
Tougard, C., Delefosse, T., Hänni, C. & Montgelard, C. (2001) Phylogenetic relationships of the five extant Rhinoceros species (Rhinocerotidae, Perissodactyla) based on mitochondrial cytochrome b and 12S rRNA genes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 19, 3444.
Wiens, J.J., Kuczynski, C.A. & Stephens, P.R. (2010) Discordant mitochondrial and nuclear gene phylogenies in emydid turtles: implications for speciation and conservation. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 99, 445461.
Willerslev, E., Gilbert, M.T.P., Binladen, J., Ho, S.Y.W., Campos, P.F., Ratan, A. et al. (2009) Analysis of complete mitochondrial genomes from extinct and extant rhinoceroses reveals lack of phylogenetic resolution. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 9, 95.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed