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Last Updated: Friday March 17 2006 14:56 GMT

New hope for rare rhino species

Sumatran rhinoceros male eating papaya - CREDIT: (c) WWF / Sylvia Jane YORATH

Wildlife experts have discovered new hope for the endangered Sumatran rhino.

A study on the island of Borneo came across the tracks of 13 of the animals, meaning there could well be a breeding group in the area.

The rhino, which were found last May, are now being protected from illegal poachers, who have hunted the animals to the brink of extinction.

The Sumatran rhino is the smallest of the species and only 300 of them are left in the world.

The new group of animals were found on the Malay peninsula of Borneo, where is was feared only a handful of the creatures survived.

Quiz
A rhino

Wildlife group WWF took part in the study and said it's good news for the species.

Raymond Alfred, of WWF-Malaysia said: "We were heartened to find that a few individuals have managed to survive.

"Conservationists and Sabah government agencies are working hard to ensure this small population is protected and can grow."

Hunted

Map of Borneo

Borneo used to be home to many rhinos but poaching has seriously damaged those numbers, pushing the animals towards extinction.

They were hunted because their horns, which are said to be worth almost as much as gold. The horns are then used in traditional Asian medicine.