December 21, 2014

Strategic Focus

Mission: to prevent the extinction of the Sumatran rhinoceros

Foreword

The old-fashioned term “preservation” is used in this Strategic Focus document because all efforts to prevent the extinction of the Sumatran rhinoceros by monitoring and guarding wild rhinos in protected areas (starting 1939 for Taman Negara, 1982 for Danum Valley, 1984 for Tabin Wildlife Reserve, 1993 for Endau Rompin Park) have failed. Wild rhinos have gone either completely or functionally extinct in all these areas.

Over the past thirty years, very many more Sumatran rhinos have died than have been born, both in the wild and equally so in captivity. There are two possible solutions. One is to accept that saving this species is now too difficult and expensive, and to abandon it to extinction. The other is to focus entirely on production of Sumatran rhino embryos in the laboratory. This can be done by intracellular sperm injection into oocytes, where one sperm is inserted into an oocyte (thereby saving the millions of sperm that are always wasted during classical artificial insemination), and the resulting embryo implanted into a female rhino. There are at least two male Sumatran rhino in captivity that are known sperm producers (Tam in Tabin, and Andalas in Way Kambas). Indonesia has three fertile females Sumatran rhinos in managed facilities at Way Kambas, none of which are producing babies by natural breeding. All captive females, including Putnung and Iman in Tabin, can be treated with hormones to boost and regularize oocyte production. In theory, several hundreds of Sumatran rhino oocytes could be produced annually from captive females. Any extra embryos that might be produced can either be frozen for future maturation, or attempts could be made to implant them into zoo rhinos of different species.

Thus, the need now is to prevent extinction by producing Sumatran rhino embryos through advanced reproductive technology and implantation into surrogate mothers, under a single programme, in collaboration with Indonesia and international experts.

July 2014 to June 2018

STRATEGIC FOCUS

P R I O R I T Y    A C T I O N

1. To advocate for a single, focused, global Sumatran rhino preservation programme  (A) To engage & collaborate locally, nationally, & internationally with governmental & other relevant partners in rhino science, conservation & advanced reproductive technology

(B) To assist and where appropriate facilitate collaboration between Governments of Malaysia and Indonesia in generating a single Sumatran rhino preservation programme

(C) To promote and facilitate establishment of a programme to produce Sumatran rhino embryos through intracellular sperm injection and other advanced reproductive technologies (ART)

(D) To engage with ART experts, industry and the public to build support for Sumatran rhino

2. To provide management and operational capacity building (A) To enhance management and operational capacity and infrastructure as required by needs on the ground and as established under Focus 1.

(B) To report to and inform Borneo Rhino Sanctuary (BRS) Task Force

(C) To help build capacity as needed in skills, staff, financial resources and infrastructure

(D) To provide advice & links between institutions for establishment of ART capacity

3. Operation of Borneo Rhino Sanctuary (BRS) facilities & welfare of fenced, managed rhinos (A) To ensure that the welfare and reproductive potential of rhinos is prioritised at all times through:

(i) Constant monitoring and active care and husbandry of rhinos and their facilities and living conditions, by a qualified, dedicated veterinarian;

(ii) Liaison with other Sumatran rhino experts;

(iii) Ensuring that all staff involved in care of rhinos have a basic understanding of rhino husbandry, and are provided with necessary skills;

(iv) Implementation of routine monitoring of key health & reproductive parameters;

(v) Ensuring that adequate clean food and water supplies are available to rhinos at all times.

(B) To ensure that all persons involved in care of rhinos operate as a collaborative team with Focus 3 (A) as their common goal through:

(i) Good management of all aspects of staff and facilities;

(ii) Ensuring that living conditions at Tabin are maintained to a reasonable standard.

4. To transfer all remaining Malaysian wild Sumatran rhinos into the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary (BRS) facilities (A) To locate, capture and translocate all remaining wild Sumatran rhinos in Sabah into the BRS facilities

(B) To transfer any wild Sumatran rhinos that might remain in Peninsular Malaysia to the BRS facilities in Sabah

 

5. To establish funding needs and build funding mechanisms (A) To establish funding needs for :

(i) maintenance and care of rhinos in fenced, managed facilities

(ii) development and use of intracellular sperm injection and other reproductive technologies for the production of Sumatran rhino embryos

(iii) locating, capturing and translocating of rhinos to BRS facilities

(B) To prepare and finalize a budget up to mid 2018, based on 5(A)

(C) To secure vital funding

(D) To seek new funding sources to support development and use of advanced reproductive technology as a means to prevent the extinction of the Sumatran rhinoceros

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