Glimmer of hope to save Sumatran rhinos from extinction


Tabin, Sabah, 12 January 2012: Expressions of optimism and hope filled the air at the Borneo Rhinoceros Sanctuary (BRS) project in Sabah which has been abuzz in recent weeks with the rescue of its latest star attraction, Puntung, a female Sumatran rhino.

Puntung, who is estimated to be between 10 to 12 years old is seen as the last chance of breeding the almost extinct Borneo Sumatran Rhinoceros.

There is a possibility of saving the animal which started off millions of years ago but all maybe lost within a decade if nothing is done to save them from extinction.

The rhinoceros is considered a critically endangered species with only 150 individuals existing in the wild and around 30 of them are found in Sabah.

She was airlifted last Christmas to her new home after entering a trap at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve which had been among six set up since April 2010.

She had been sighted in the wild as a mate for Kertam or Tam in short, who was moved to the temporary paddock at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve on Aug 13 2008.

Tam who is estimated to be 20 years old had walked out of the forest into an oil palm plantation and had refused to return to the forest.

A decision was then made by the Sabah Wildlife Department to move Tam to the present 2.5 hectare forest paddock and night stall.

Tam has been found to be fertile but with his sperm count being low and erratic, further efforts to increase his sperm count will be undertaken.

While natural breeding would be the best option, assisted reproductive bio-technology (ARB) is also being considered.

The ARB process includes use of ultra sonography, hormone profiling, semen collection and freezing, and artificial insemination.

Another female rhino, Gelogob, caught in Sabah in 1994 was transferred to Tabin in 2010 but breeding efforts with hormone treatment failed as Gelogob was too old and could not produce eggs.

Gelogob who is 30 years old, is blind and stays in another paddock nearby.

Yayasan Sime Darby is funding RM5 million over three years for the sanctuary which is a fenced off area located within the Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

Other institutions involved the Sumatran Rhinoceros conservation efforts in Sabah are the Sabah Wildlife Department, Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA), Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, WWF, Sabah Forestry department, Zoo Leipzig, Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

The BRS is part of Yayasan Sime Darby's "Big 9" programme , which is an effort to conserve animals which are classified as endangered or vulnerable.

The nine animals which are indigenous to Malaysia are the Sun Bear, Orang Utan, Pygmy Elephant, Bornean Clouded Leopard, Hornbill, Banteng, Proboscis Monkey, Bornean Sumatran Rhinoceros and the Malayan Tiger.

The rhinoceros which is on the brink of extinction symbolises what Sime Darby stands for - no matter how hopeless a situation may seem, it never gives up.

There is a very real possibility that despite YSD's assistance, the Bornean Sumatran Rhinoceros will be extinct in a few decades but Sime Darby is doing its best to prevent it.

The BRS provides a natural environment suitable for the rhinos which will be protected from poachers and hunters with their wellbeing also monitored by qualified staff.

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Last Updated:
04 Dec 2018
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