Yayasan Sime Darby: Time to put more boots on the ground for wildlife conservation
The death of Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhino Iman is yet another cautionary tale
Rescued in 2014 in Danum Valley, Lahad Datu, Sabah, Iman was thought to be pregnant but her ‘baby’ was indeed one of a few tumours (uterine fibroids) she had.
Rescued in 2014 in Danum Valley, Lahad Datu, Sabah, Iman was thought to be pregnant but her ‘baby’ was indeed one of a few tumours (uterine fibroids) she had.

Kuala Lumpur, 28 November 2019 – The death of Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhinoceros Iman is a cautionary tale that should not fall on deaf ears, Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) Governing Council Member Caroline Christine Russell said. She issued a clarion call to those in the position to make a difference in wildlife conservation efforts in the country, to put more boots on the ground for forest patrolling to address the serious issue of poaching.

“We are deeply saddened by Iman’s passing. It is such a tragic loss despite our best efforts to conserve the species from extinction, but how many more wildlife species must go extinct before we truly learn our lesson?”

“We may have forgotten, but the main reason why the Sumatran rhino is extinct today in Malaysia is because these unfortunate animals were poached faster than they could reproduce. Their horn was worth more than gold. It is high time to step up collective efforts to ward off the extinction of other threatened species by tackling poaching activities,” she added.

Caroline said Iman’s death, although inevitable, was not any less painful for the Foundation, and it was the same feeling when Gelugob, Tam and Puntung died. She said: “We do not regret a single ringgit spent on the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary as well as all the conservation efforts with the government, international experts and other stakeholders that were carried out to conserve our precious Sumatran rhino.

“If it wasn’t for our funding, the Sumatran rhino may have gone extinct even earlier in Malaysia. And we would not have learnt all the lessons that could be shared with others to mitigate or avoid recurrence. YSD is undeterred in our conservation efforts and will continue to invest in more initiatives towards avoiding the extinction of wildlife species, especially due to poaching.”

“Now, more than ever, we need to concentrate our resources towards saving endangered species such as the Malayan tigers, elephants, Orangutans, Proboscis monkeys, clouded leopards, bantengs and Bornean sun bears,” she added.

Caroline cited a recent inventory by The Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan), which showed that there are only about 40 to 50 Malayan tigers and 100 to 130 elephants left in Perak.

“The situation is dire. Therefore, YSD is collaborating with the Perak State Parks Corporation (PSPC) to employ and train more rangers on the ground, who also include Orang Asli, by channelling RM1.52 million into the Enhancement of Anti-poaching Efforts in the Royal Belum State Park project from 2017 until 2020.

“YSD is also currently collaborating with the Sabah Forestry Department with a commitment of RM4 million to train and deploy an anti-poaching squad under its Enforcement, Tactical, Operational and Protection squad or ‘Protect Team’ to combat wildlife poaching and trafficking in Sabah. We are hopeful that with the recent success of the week-long joint patrolling operation in Tabin involving the Protect Team and the army, the Sabah Wildlife Department and WWF Malaysia, the effort and collaboration will be continuous to achieve the highest impact,” she added.

In collaboration with the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) and the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), YSD had supported conservation efforts to save Sumatran rhinos in Sabah from 2009 to 2017, with a total allocation of RM15.7 million.

Apart from providing for the welfare of the precious animals, the funding was also channelled towards the artificial reproductive technology (ART) breeding programme. YSD ceased its support for the programme when the Federal Government announced an allocation of RM11.9 million to continue the conservation efforts.

“We are grateful to all the conservationists, international experts, the government and other stakeholders who had tirelessly poured substantial resources into preserving our Sumatran rhinos. We are especially thankful for the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) team, headed by Executive Director Datuk Dr John Payne, as well as BORA veterinarian Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin who has been arduously caring for the rhinos at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve,” Caroline added.

After BORA rescued and relocated the female Sumatran rhino named Puntung in 2011, the documentation of the rescue efforts of the next rhino rescue was planned. This came to fruition through YSD’s support of the National Geographic documentary titled “Operation Sumatran Rhino: Mission Critical”, which filmed Iman’s discovery and rescue mission in 2014.

Since 2009, YSD has committed RM153 million towards the protection of high conservation value ecosystems, vulnerable and endangered species as well as initiatives promoting the preservation of the environment and biodiversity. 
To aid recuperation after three weeks of daily blood loss from uterine fibroids, Iman was pampered with extra vitamins, iron and fruits.
Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) veterinarian Dr Zainal Zainuddin feeding Kertam during a visit by BORA Executive Director Dr John Payne and YSD CEO Dr. Hjh. Yatela Zainal Abidin at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary, Tabin Wildlife Resort.
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Last Updated:
02 Dec 2019
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