What you need to know about the death of the rare Sumatran rhinoceros.

In late March 2016, World Wildlife Fund researchers celebrated the reappearance of the incredibly rare Sumatran rhino.

Image from International Rhino Foundation/WIkimedia Commons.


On March 12, 2016, a female Sumatran rhino was captured in a pit trap in the East Kalimantan province of Indonesian Borneo. It was the first time in 40 years that one had been seen in the flesh.

The World Wildlife Fund called her story a "new hope."

Just one month later, the celebration ended abruptly when the captured Sumatran rhino, named Najaq, has died.


A leg infection seems to have been the cause of death, although a post-mortem is still being conducted as of this writing.

Though Najaq's death is sad, there is good news to share.

For a long time, it was thought there were no more Sumatran rhinos in Kalimantan. There were only a small population on the Malaysian side of the island (declared extinct in 2015), so many people thought these animals were just about gone forever.

But we were wrong. And that's very, very good.

Unlike its more sparsely coiffed cousins, the Sumatran rhino is covered in hair. Image from Ltshears/Wikimedia Commons.

Sumatran rhinos are one of the most endangered large animals on the planet. There are estimated to be fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild.

In fact, up until 2013, when a World Wildlife Fund team found rhino footprints in the jungle (and managed to photograph a Sumatran rhino via an automatic camera trap), the species was considered extinct in Kalimantan.

We now know that at least 15 Sumatran rhinos still exist in Borneo.

15 is not a lot, but for an animal thought to be gone, it's a remarkable number.

Even better — we know how save them.

Sumatran rhinos, like many species in Borneo, are threatened by both poachers and habitat loss. They need the forests and jungles to survive, but many wild places are being destroyed to make room for mining, plantations, and logging operations.


This land was cleared for a palm oil plantation in Malaysian Borneo. Image from T. R. Shankar Raman/Wikimedia Commons.

By creating sanctuaries for these animals we can give them the homes they need to survive.

Sanctuaries like Way Kamblas National Park, for instance. Way Kamblas is a protected area in Sumatran Indonesia that is home to a number of Sumatran rhinos that are protected by their own anti-poaching squad.

A worker and Rosa the rhino, who was transported to Way Kamblas to help establish a breeding population. Image via Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images.

What's more, by supporting the use of sustainable palm oil (which is used in more products you every day than you can even imagine), which many companies are already doing, we can help protect the forests outside of these designated sanctuaries.

Najaq's death is sad, but we're being given an incredible opportunity to save a species once thought to be lost.

“We now have proof that a species once thought extinct in Kalimantan still roams the forests, and we will now strengthen our efforts to protect this extraordinary species,” said Dr. Efransjah, CEO of WWF-Indonesia, when they found Najaq in the pit trap.


Rosa the rhino in the Way Kambas Sanctuary. Image from Willem v Strien/Flickr.

Najaq may have died, but her life truly did give a new hope to the preservation of her species.

We have the opportunity. We know what to do. We just need to act.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via Travis Akers / Twitter

A tweet thread by Travis Akers, a Navy Lieutenant with 17 years of service, is going viral because it shows just how sweet children can be and also points to an overlooked issue facing military families.

In the early morning of April 12, Akers tweeted a photo of himself and his seven-year-old son Tanner who he affectionately calls "Munchie." Akers was moved because his son set his alarm clock so he could get up early enough to hand him a pocket full of Legos before work.

Tanner wanted to be sure his father had something to play with at the Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida. "This was my daily morning trip to base, departing my house at six am for work," Akers told Upworthy.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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