When the Sumatran rhino isn’t eating or patrolling its territory, it spends most of its time in wallows, spending anything from one to five hours taking mud baths.  If the rhino cannot find a natural mud hole, it will use its horn and feet to deepen and expand puddles.  Wallowing not only helps keep the rhino cool and free from parasites, it is vital to the animals’ health.  Captive rhinos who were not provided with wallows quickly began to suffer from pustules, skin inflammations, eye problems, inflamed nails, and hair loss, all of which can become so severe that the animal will die.  


The Sumatran rhinoceros is actually the closest living relative to one of the world’s most well-known of the Ice Age megafauna, the woolly rhinoceros (last image).  This horned giant ranged all across Eurasia, from Korea all the way to Spain, and survived the last Ice Age before dying out 10 000 years later.  Originally this close relationship was only theorised due to the two animals’ similar woolly coats, but recent DNA analyses have proven that the two are sister species.  Some theories maintain that, in addition to global climate change, the woolly rhino was driven to extinction by over-hunting by humans, ironically the same thing that threatens the Sumatran rhino today.  


The spectacular Titan Arum

With a massive flowering structure that rises some three metres above the ground, the Titan arum is a giant among plants, scientifically named Amorphophallus titanum (Alismatales - Araceae).

These striking plants dwell only in the rainforests of western Sumatra, on steep hillsides that are 120 to 365 m above sea level.

The Titan arum has a massive inflorescence (flowering structure) consisting of a spathe (collar-like structure) wrapped around a spadix (flower-bearing spike). The spathe is the shape of an upturned bell. It is green speckled with cream on the outside, and rich crimson on the inside. It has ribbed sides and a frilled edge, and can be up to three metres in circumference.

The flowers are carried on the lower end of the greyish-yellow spadix. At the base of the spadix, within the protective chamber formed by the spathe, is a band of cream male flowers above a ring of the larger pink female flowers. When the flowers are ready for pollination, the spadix heats up and emits a nauseating smell. This stench is so bad that the Indonesians call the plant ‘the corpse flower’.

These wonders of nature are not easy to observe in the wild; they can take ten years to flower and are only open for one day.

Reference: [1]

Photo credit: ©Jeremy Holden  |  [Top]  -  [Bottom]  | Locality: Sumatra

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