April 20, 2014

Press release: Danum rhino rescue shows that drastic measures are needed to save the species

Tabin Wildlife Reserve: The successful capture of a female Sumatran rhino named Iman from a remote part of Danum Valley, and her transfer to Tabin Wildlife Reserve on 21 March, has revealed once and for all that her species is on the very edge of extinction in Malaysia. Excitement mounted amongst the people involved in the operation when indications of pregnancy were observed after her capture. The signs included feisty behavior, a torn ear, probably a result of a past tussle with a male, a mass with blood vessels inside the uterus, and minor bleeding from the private parts. A detailed ultrasound examination under anesthesia of Iman by specialists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research Berlin (IZW) with local counterparts revealed today (3 April), however, that what had been suspected to be a fetus is in fact a collection of tumors in the uterus.

“With the serious blow to the Global Sumatran Rhino Breeding program with the death of Suci in Cincinnati Zoo, this new revelation of Iman’s very poor reproductive capability due to her uterine tumors is very sad news to all of us,“ said Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment.

“But we shall not give up! As we are working with one of the world’s best large mammal reproductive specialist from Germany (IZW), with their assistance and technological know-how, we will make the best out of this worst case scenario,” added Masidi.

Meanwhile Tun Musa Hitam, Chairman of Yayasan Sime Darby, the main funder of the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary Programme (BRS), was devastated to hear the news but remained hopeful, “Our hearts are saddened by the turn of events with Iman but all hopes are not lost yet. We now have to act quickly and boldly to ensure the survival of this critically endangered species.”

“It is very clear how we need to proceed. We have to embark on a biotechnology approach to save this species, with a focus on techniques such as in vitro fertilization,” said Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, Director of Sabah Wildlife Department, “And with the death of Suci in Cincinnati Zoo, where we were planning to send Tam to breed with her, we now have to focus all our efforts on Inam and hope she can successfully breed with Tam,” added Ambu.

“What we found out today was a dramatic emotional rollercoaster. We came here with hope that based on initial ultrasound images there was a probability that Iman was pregnant but when we did a more thorough examination we learnt that there is no fetus in her uterus but big big tumors, some as big as footballs. This means that she has not been sexually active for a long time probably without a male partner for maybe 5 to 10 years,” said IZW reproductive specialist Dr Thomas Hildebrand.

Iman_ultrasound 1 web“I think the whole procedure that we did to confirm Iman’s reproductive status shows actually how competent the team of experts comprising of both Malaysian and German specialists. So if we do have a healthy breeding female we could easily have a successful breeding program. Thus we would like to advise Sabah to go with all the force it has to rescue the remaining rhinos in the wild as this is probably the only hope with them to breed through assisted breeding techniques,” added Tom.

“We have known since the 1990s that female Sumatran rhinos are very susceptible to growth of cysts and tumors in the reproductive tract, a syndrome associated with long periods without breeding,” said Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin, Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) veterinarian based in Tabin Wildlife Reserve, “If we want to save the species, we need to bring rhinos into managed conditions and try out advanced reproductive technologies.”

Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne, BORA executive director, stated that “Everyone concerned with preventing the extinction of this magnificent species really ought to work collaboratively to share knowledge, ideas, experience, gametes and rhinos. That includes Indonesia and Malaysia, and the various specialists, notably IZW”.

“This is grim news as this seems to confirm our thoughts that rhinos might not be breeding anymore in the wild,” said Dr Sen Nathan, Assistant Director at the Sabah Wildlife Department. “The reproductive tract pathology in Iman seems very similar to the lesions found not only in Puntung, the other female Sumatran rhino rescued in 2011, but also in the poached female rhino in Kalabakan in 2001. The poached female rhino was a very young healthy female but her whole reproductive tract was unviable and full of large tumors as well,” added Sen.

“By the looks of this we might be seeing the last generation of Sumatran rhinos in the wild. Once these few grow old and die… that’s it, there would be no more rhinos in Sabah,” sadly concluded Sen.

Iman wallowing in the mud in the comfort of her enclosure

Iman wallowing in the mud in the comfort of her enclosure


Cincinnati Zoo Devastated By Loss of Endangered Sumatran Rhino

CINCINNATI (March 31, 2014) – “Suci”, one of the world’s rare endangered Sumatran rhinos, passed away late on Sunday, March 30. Surrounded by the keepers and veterinary staff who cared for her daily, she died at her home at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

The female Sumatran rhino, born at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2004, was one of three Sumatran rhino calves born to mother, “Emi” and father, “Ipuh.” Suci’s keepers first became concerned about her when they noticed her losing weight several months ago. After careful research and hours of dedicated monitoring, staff began treating her for hemochromatosis, otherwise known as iron storage disease. Although hemochromatosis is extremely difficult to diagnose in a Sumatran rhino, Suci’s mother died from the disease in 2009. In humans it is a heritable disease and many of Suci’s symptoms were similar to those of her mother’s. A necropsy will be performed on Suci early Monday, but it will be several weeks before the zoo will have the final results.

suci small“Today the Cincinnati Zoo has lost one of its most beloved and charismatic animals. Suci was a symbol of hope for her entire species, one that is quickly losing ground in the wild, and her absence will leave a great hole in our hearts,” said Dr. Terri Roth, Director of the Zoo’s Lindner Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife and Vice-President of Conservation. “The international community has a great challenge on its hands. If we don’t act quickly, and boldly, the loss of this magnificent animal will be among the great tragedies of our time.”

For several months, scientists, keepers, and veterinarians at the Cincinnati Zoo have been treating Suci for the complex disease, while hoping for a complete recovery. Therapeutic phlebotomies, the treatment used on humans and in African black rhinos, were performed by Zoo staff and the early results were promising.

“Suci’s behavior and appetite had improved and we remained hopeful,” said Dr. Roth. “However, on Sunday her condition quickly deteriorated. Keepers and vets worked together tirelessly to make Suci comfortable but ultimately there was little that could be done.”

The three Sumatran rhino calves born at the Cincinnati Zoo were the direct result of years of breakthrough research by scientists at CREW. The Cincinnati Zoo was the first place to successfully breed this critically endangered species in captivity in over 112 years. To date, only one other calf has been born outside of Cincinnati, at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia, where Indonesian veterinarians employed the breeding protocol developed by CREW scientists. That calf, named “Andatu” was sired by the first calf produced at the Cincinnati Zoo “Andalas.” The Los Angeles Zoo sent Andalas to Sumatra in 2007 to help bolster the Indonesian program. Now, the only Sumatran rhino living in North America is Suci’s brother “Harapan” who also resides at the Cincinnati Zoo. Harapan moved to the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Florida in 2008, and later moved to the Los Angeles Zoo, before returning to Cincinnati in July of 2013.

“The Cincinnati Zoo has been committed to saving the Sumatran rhino for 25 years, and we plan to keep working to ensure this species will still be around a century from today,” said Thane Maynard, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Zoo.

Considered the most endangered of all rhino species and perhaps the most endangered large mammal on earth, it is estimated that no more than 100 animals exist, almost all on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. The primary cause of the species’ decline is the loss of forests due to oil palm, logging and human encroachment, even in some national parks, and poaching for its horn, which some Asian cultures believe contains medicinal properties. Today, there are only nine Sumatran rhinos living in captivity worldwide.

The Cincinnati Zoo works closely with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, the Indonesian Rhino Foundation, the IUCN Asian Rhino Specialist Group and the International Rhino Foundation, to protect this species in the wild, and also propagate Sumatran rhinos in captivity. Both approaches will be necessary to secure the future of this critically endangered species for future generations.

“Although we remain proud of the many contributions the Cincinnati Zoo has made to Sumatran rhino conservation, especially to the captive breeding effort, the loss of Suci is a devastating blow to the program,” said Dr. Roth. “The best way we can remember and honor her is to work even harder to save this incredible species – if we let them disappear, the responsibility will rest heavily on all of our shoulders.”


The Star: Three captive Sumatran rhinos raise conservation hopes

KOTA KINABALU, 22 March 2014: Sabah wildlife researchers are hopeful that three Sumatran rhinoceros now in captivity at a reserve will help save the species from extinction. Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said they were examining the latest captive, a female Sumatran rhino recently translocated to the reserve to join two other creatures from the critically endangered species.

Iman resting in her wallow

Iman resting in her wallow

The female rhino was air-lifted by a helicopter to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve on Friday, about 10 days after its capture at the Danum Valley conservation area. Researchers have named the female rhino Iman after the small river at the Danum Valley.

“Once Iman is settled into Tabin, we will review all potential options on how she can best contribute to her species,” Dr Ambu said.

“We hope that this success will act as a boost to international collaboration on the Sumatran rhino, and through the NGO Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora), try to engage with our counterparts in Indonesia.”

He said the capture of Iman and two others – a male named Tam and a female named Puntung – was necessary.

“The Sumatran rhino is on the verge of extinction in Sabah. Bringing them into captive conditions allows us to maximise the chance that each rhino can help save the species,” Laurentius said, adding that the department had been working on this matter with Bora, WWF Malaysia and Yayasan Sabah.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the state Cabinet had decided a year ago to bring all remaining Sumatran rhinos into a managed, fenced-in facility.

“Our hope is to breed them with the neccessary local and global expertise,” he said.

“We also hope that with the continued support and expertise on rhino reproductive biology from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife based in Berlin, Germany, we will have baby rhinos soon,” Masidi added.

In this regard, he said while the Sabah cabinet had agreed to loan Tam to the Cincinatti Zoo for breeding as part of international collaboration, that move may not be necessary if Iman was proven to be fertile.

“The state Cabinet approval to send Tam to the United States was conditional upon our failure to catch a fertile young female rhino at Danum within a reasonable time to mate with Tam,” he added.


Read the article on Star Online


Transfer of female rhino found in Danum to Tabin is a success

Danum Valley, 21 March 2014: A rare Sumatran rhino was successfully translocated late afternoon on Friday 21 from a very remote area in Danum Valley, to join a male (Tam) and a female (Puntung) rhinos at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary (BRS) Facilities in Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Named Iman, after a small river near where she was caught, her rescue was a result of a year of intense efforts to make every last rhino in Malaysia count towards efforts to prevent the extinction of one of the world’s most critically endangered species.

Iman in her jungle boma in the forest of Danum Valley

Iman in her jungle boma in the forest of Danum Valley

Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, Minister of Culture, Tourism and Environment said “The State Cabinet agreed in March 2013 that the only way we can ensure that every Sumatran rhino in Sabah plays a role to save the species is to bring all of them into a managed, fenced facility, with the necessary local and global expertise and collaboration to breed them”.

“In February this year, the State Cabinet agreed that we should loan our male, Tam, to Cincinnati Zoo for breeding as part of that collaboration. If Iman proves to be fertile, there might be no necessity for Tam to fly to Cincinnati to mate with a ‘foreign bride’. In fact the State Cabinet approval to send him to the US in the first place was conditional upon our failure to catch a fertile young female rhino at Danum within a reasonable time to mate with Tam,” added Masidi.

Iman resting in her wallow

Iman resting in her wallow

“We also hope that with the continued support and expertise on rhino reproductive biology from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife based in Berlin, Germany, we will have baby rhinos very soon,” concluded Masidi.

Sime Darby Foundation’s Chairman, Tun Musa Hitam, who expressed jubilation with Iman’s rescue and successful translocation efforts said “I would like to thank and congratulate everyone involved in this effort. All the hard work has paid off and we have another opportunity to help save this magnificent species from extinction”.

Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, Director of Sabah Wildlife Department said “The Sumatran rhino is on the verge of extinction in Sabah. Bringing them into captive conditions allows us to maximize the chance that each rhino can help save the species”.

Iman being airlifted out of Danum using a Sirkorsky S64 Sky crane

Iman being airlifted out of Danum using a Sirkorsky S64 Sky crane

“My Department has been working on this with Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) and other partners including WWF Malaysia and Yayasan Sabah. Once Iman is settled into Tabin, we will review all the potential options on how she can best contribute to her species. We hope that this success will act as a boost to international collaboration on the Sumatran rhino, and through BORA try to engage with our counterparts in Indonesia,” added Ambu.

“I would like to congratulate BORA, WWF Malaysia, Yayasan Sabah, Sabah Forestry Department and my own staff and especially the Wildlife Rescue Unit who worked tirelessly on this rescue operation. Not forgetting Erickson Air-Crane Inc, without the use of their huge Sikorsky S-64 Helicopter, this rescue would not have been impossible. My sincere gratitude also goes to Sime Darby Foundation, which funded this rescue operation as well as the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, which funds our Wildlife Rescue Unit. This operation is all that serious wildlife conservation work should be about,” concluded Ambu.

The Wildlife Rescue Unit at work securing the rhino in her carrier

The Wildlife Rescue Unit at work securing the rhino in her carrier


Rhino captured in Danum

The Daily Express, Tuesday 11 March 2014. Kota Kinabalu: A female Sumatran rhino was captured deep inside Danum Valley, Monday, raising a desperate last hope that experts may be able to use it to get some baby rhinos sired in captive breeding to avert a local extinction of the species in Sabah. That is provided the new “girl” turns out to be cyst-free and reproductively healthy and fertile.

A mist-covered view of the forest canopy at Danum Valley

A mist-covered view of the forest canopy at Danum Valley

“The rhino fell into a pit trap dug at a site on a known rhino trail deep inside the Danum Valley Conservation Area about six hours’ walk from Yayasan Sabah’s Borneo Rainforest Lodge,” Dr Sen Nathan, Asst Director-cum-Chief Veterinarian of Sabah Wildlife Department told Daily Express.

“It turned out to be quite an aggressive female and no report of injury on the animal had been received from the field so far,” Dr Sen noted. The Bornean Rhino Alliance (BORA) and Sabah Wildlife Department set up the trap, after camera traps identified the presence of the rhino in the area and intensified this joint effort when the State Cabinet approved the capture of remnants of rhinos in Sabah’s forests last year. All rhinos captured will now be used for all-out captive breeding in Sabah or in proven zoos overseas to save them from dying out from old age or illegally hunted for their horns. Extinction of the species appears certain because it’s world population had plummeted to an all-time low of less than 100 and it is believed that most females, even the wild ones roaming in protected areas, are probably cyst-infested and incapable of reproducing.

Experts at the International Sumatran Rhino Crisis Summit in Singapore last April issued an emergency and crisis recommendation to capture wild rhinos to sire as many and as fast as possible by using and leveraging on the most proven captive breeding experts and most successful facilities in the world. The State Cabinet gave the green light to send Sabah’s lone captive male rhino Tam to Cincinnati Zoo to mate with female, Suci, in June, and also allow experts from Cincinntti Zoo such as Dr Terri Roth to help mate Tam and any new female captured from Danum.

As of 7pm Monday night, the newly captured rhino remained in the pit, Dr Sen said. “As far as I am concerned, it’s good news only after we have translocated the animal safely to Tabin Wildlife Reserve Rhino Sanctuary,” said Dr Sen. The capture of the yet-to-be named rhino coincided with the visit to Sabah of world renowned documentary naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, who was in Danum Valley for the filming of “Conquest of the Sky” for Sky Vision, UK.

Director of Sabah Wildlife Department, Datuk Dr Laurentius Amu, said he was waiting for the report on the capture. BORA Executive Officer, Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne, said he’ll get into Danum Valley Tuesday by helicopter to dispatch extra men to get the rhino out.

Transfer of Sumatran Rhino to Cincinnati Zoo timely

Read the full article featured in the Borneo Post on 14 Feb 2014.

Sabah rhinos headed for US Zoo – Daily Express

Tam Tam

Tam will join other rhinos at the Cincinnati Zoo in efforts to promote breeding success

Kota Kinabalu: The State Cabinet decided unanimously Wednesday to allow the transfer of Sabah’s Sumatran rhinos such as Tam on loan to the Cincinnati Zoo in the US under a collaborative natural breeding in captivity programme to stave off the imminent extinction of Sabah’s last remaining few individuals in Danum Valley.

“This is a step Sabah didn’t want to take in the past but it gives us no other option and the State Cabinet has agreed to the recommendations of the Sabah Wildlife Department to go for the ultimate option to work with the Cincinnati Zoo,” State Culture, Tourism and Environment Minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun told Daily Express in reference to an export ban of rhinos imposed in 1985.

“I want to get it done as soon as possible, because we have been waiting for years and so far, we have not found a solution that we thought we could get it done,” Masidi added.

But leveraging on the world’s only proven success of Cincinnati Zoo, particularly the like of Dr Terri Roth who had had successfully bred three baby Sumatran rhinos in captivity.

The birth of male Andalas on Sept 13, 2001 marked the first birth of this complex species in a zoo in 112 years, followed by female Suci in July 2004 and subsequently male Harapan born on April 27, 2007 and later helped Indonesia to sire a fourth – Andatu, in 2012, in Way Kambas, Sumatra, using Andalas as the father.

“To me it’s simple, if we don’t do anything, it’s just like watching them die a natural death until the last rhino in Sabah goes extinct,” Masidi explained.

“So there is no other option, Tam will take a holiday in Cincinnati and meet his girlfriend Suci (whose original parents came from Sumatra),” Masidi quipped – a request long sought by the Americans who believe mating Tam and Suci which come from two totally different genetic lines will produce genetically robust ancestors for future generations of Sumatran rhinos.

“We don’t want the rhino to go extinct during our life time. We are at a crossroad, so we are willing to take any chance although the risks are always there,” Masidi said.

However, Masidi said the State Cabinet also gave the Wildlife Department a “reasonable time” of four to six months to capture a female rhino in Danum Valley, since camera traps caught images of a female as recently as Dec 2013.

If the female is indeed captured, it implies Tam will stay on a bit longer to mate locally.

Asked if he would invite Dr Terri Roth to Sabah to help enhance the chances of success of this local breeding if any, Masidi said: “Yes, we should allow anyone with the expertise to help. If Dr Terri had bred three rhinos she must be some body who is well qualified to assist,” Masidi said.

“I was made to understand that Cincinnati Zoo is more than willing to help us. Even the Germans are more than willing to help us, so we should not limit any body who offers assistance, anyone we feel have the expertise I think we welcome the assistance,” argued Masidi who said he had never met Dr Terri Roth but would certainly welcome a meeting to talk over what’s the best way forward.  While Dr Terri’s forte is natural breeding in Captivity, the Germans from Berlin are reputed for their cutting edge technology in Artificial Insemination which had great successes with the elephants and other species of rhinos.

The Sumatran rhino Crisis Summit held in Singapore in early April 2013 recommended the simultaneous utilisation of the world’s best and the most proven expertise in natural breeding in captivity and Artificial Insemination to get a safeguarding population in captivity produced as fast as possible. Meanwhile, Director of Sabah Wildlife Department, Datuk Dr Laurentius, who presented the Cabinet Paper Wednesday, said it was a “very happy day” for him.

“To us it is dream come true, the best option I can think of ,” he told Daily Express.

“The credit goes to Masidi who pushed it through and kept on pushing until we get the result today, for the betterment of Sabah’s Sumatran rhino,” Laurentius noted.

The Cabinet Paper documented the various steps Sabah had taken in order to breed rhinos locally since the 1980s including an export ban so far had not succeeded. It also included recent plans to capture a female to breed with Tam after Puntung had proved cysts infested but so far, the targeted new female remains elusive.  Finally, Laurentius argued that the option was for Tam to go to Cincinnati where a healthy, cyst-free nine year old Suci is just at the prime of fertility offers a chance to get pregnant by Tam.


Asian Rhino Range States meet in Bandar Lampung, Indonesia

3 October 2013

rsz Asian Rhino Range States meeting in Bandar Lampung, Sumatra, Indonesia, 2-3 October 2013

At a meeting of the five Asian Rhino range states – Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Nepal – a common action plan was agreed today with the aim of increasing the populations of Asian Rhino species by at least 3% annually by 2020.

This agreement, called the Bandar Lampung Declaration, was reached after two days of negotiations at the Asian Rhino Range States Meeting held in Bandar Lampung, Indonesia, hosted by the government of Indonesia and facilitated by the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC).

“Our decision to host this meeting reflects Indonesia’s determination to do everything we can to save our species of rhino,” says Zulkifli Hasan, Minister of Forestry, Indonesia. “We have found that when a species becomes extremely rare, occurring at a very low density, such as the Sumatran Rhino, we need to take special measures to ensure that the animals can find each other and breed.”

The commitment outlines specific conservation actions that are necessary to secure a steady growth rate of all three Asian Rhino species – Sumatran, Javan and Greater One-horned. These include improving the biological management and monitoring of the species, strengthening the protection of their habitats, performing strict anti-poaching operations, introducing tougher penalties for those that illegally kill Asian Rhinos, and maintaining the ban in the international trade of all rhino products.

“The number of surviving Asian Rhinos, especially of Javan and Sumatran Rhinos, is currently so low that maintaining their populations is not enough to Greater One-horn rhinoceros at the Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Photo: Andrew Gellsecure their survival,” says Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN SSC. “What we need to see is the recovery of these species and a steady increase of their populations. Seeing all Asian Rhino range states agree on a common and very specific action plan is a major step towards achieving this goal.”

Pressure from illegal hunting on all species of rhinos has grown seriously in recent years, mainly due to a significant increase in non-traditional use of rhino horn and a rise of rhino horn trade in Asian markets, especially in Vietnam and China.

The Sumatran Rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is listed as Critically Greater One-horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) in the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, India. Photo: Remco van MermEndangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ and its total population could be fewer than 100 individuals. An estimated 50 individuals of the Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus), also listed as Critically Endangered, survive in Java’s Ujung Kulon National Park. The Greater One-horned Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis), with estimated 3,339 individuals mainly in India and Nepal, is listed as Vulnerable and could easily be lost if current trends in the illicit trade in rhino horn continue.

The agreement was reached based on the latest knowledge on the status and trends of the three species provided by the IUCN SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group.

Representatives of Government of Indonesia sign the Declaration

Representatives of Government of Malaysia – Sabah sign the Declaration

Read the Bandar Lampung Declaration, October 2013

On The Very Edge Of Extinction

By Jaswinder Kler, Borneo Insider, August 21 2013

Masidi Manjun: “As I have said before, I want to do what is right, not what is popular. If we want to prevent that extinction, we have to do something very bold and drastic very quickly. Give me the best possible solution to this enigma”.

Datuk Masidi Majun explains to the Sabah media the Sumatran rhino situation in Sabah, 20 August 2013 rsz

Datuk Masidi Manjun speaks to the media about the status of the Sumatran rhino situation in Sabah


KOTA KINABALU: There has been much exposure this year in the media on Sabah’s rhinos. There are two main reasons for this.


Firstly, the Sumatran rhino is on the very edge of extinction. Once wide spread in the rainforests, swamps, and cloud forests in India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and China, it is believed that the species is now confined to two island populations in Sumatera and Borneo (in Sabah and Kalimantan only) .

Sumatran Rhino Crisis Summit, a brainstorming meeting of 100 global experts and concerned citizens held in Singapore in April 2013, gave the previously obscure species a new global profile. Experts think there may be about 100 left in the wild, with most in Sumatra and fewer than ten in Malaysia, all in Sabah.

No one can be sure of its exact numbers without a massive survey effort, because these solitary, forest-dwelling rhinos are so few and scattered in remote sites. In any case, the rhino specialists in Malaysia say that there are not enough wild rhinos remaining in Malaysia to form a viable breeding population.

“The second main reason for the media attention” says Datuk Masidi Manjun, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, “one thing for sure is that if assertive action is not taken now, the species will definitely go extinct in Sabah in the next decade.

“If we want to prevent that extinction, we have to do something very bold and drastic very quickly. The big question is: What exactly needs to be done? I have directed The Sabah Wildlife Department and invited the Conservation NGOs in Sabah to get together and give me the best possible solution to this enigma.


“As I have said in many contexts before, I want to do what is right, not what is popular”

Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, Director of Sabah Wildlife Department said the department has consulted with a wide range of local and international expertise, including people managing wild and farmed African rhinos, zoo people, specialist vets, rhino ecologists, and people who have been involved in saving other critically endangered birds and mammals.

According to him, the only consensus is that we have to act quickly to boost Sumatran rhino births. “Although a few international people do not agree, governmental and non-governmental professionals in Sabah say that that there is now an urgent need to get as many rhinos into fenced, managed conditions as soon as possible,” he said adding the idea is that every rhino can be closely monitored and treated as necessary, to get them producing embryos.

In my opinion, the exact location where the rhinos are kept is not paramount concern for this programme,” he added.

“We can move them between facilities as long as the care is always world class and the intention is to breed rhinos. I do believe that at this case, Sabah can and should take a leadership role.”

But Dr Sen Nathan, SWD Assistant Director explained that the problem now with wild Sumatran rhinos lies in an obscure wildlife biology concept, called the Allee Effect”.

“Once numbers of a species go below a certain threshold level, breeding success falls below death rate, and the species is set on a steady trajectory to extinction, even in protected areas such as Tabin and Danum Valley,” said Dr Sen.



“Poaching may hasten extinction, but preventing poaching will not prevent extinction. Factors involved include inability of fertile females and males to find each other, reproductive pathology induced by long periods with no breeding, and inbreeding because only siblings remain in one area.” Dr Sen believes that advanced and possibly as yet undiscovered reproductive technologies will be needed in order to maximize prospects for producing Sumatran rhino babies.

“There is imminent need to translocate the remaining wild Sumatran rhinos in Sabah to captivity as this is a key possibility to beat the looming threat of total extinction of the species,” said WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/CEO, Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma.

“We need to expedite this action as the rhinos are at the risk of being poached out or die naturally if left in the wild.”

Dino also added that WWF-Malaysia is working closely with its partners to conduct surveys in the Danum Valley to identify locations of the remaining rhinos, and patrolling the area to protect the rhinos until they are captured for translocation to the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary.

The Borneo Rhino Sanctuary programme was approved by government of Sabah in 2009, with the aim to prevent the rhinos’ extinction in Sabah. So far, only two rhinos are in the sanctuary facilities in Tabin Wildlife Reserve.



Tam is a fertile but aging male, while Puntung is a younger female, who probably cannot become pregnant by natural means because she has significant endometrial cyst growth in her reproductive organs. In March 2013, government gave approval to target capture of a wild female rhino in Danum Valley.

The long term aim is to re-establish a fully wild rhino population but the immediate task is to maximize the contribution of every single rhino towards the goal of producing more baby rhinos. In July 2013, several local NGOs and institutions agreed to support a way forward.

If Sabah cannot secure a new, fertile mate for Tam before July 2014, Tam will be loaned to Cincinnati Zoo as a mate for their sole female Sumatran rhino named Suci.

Why Cincinnati? Because this is the only zoo in the world which has successfully bred Sumatran rhinos, producing an infant in 2001 (a male named Andalas), 2004 (a female named Suci) and 2007 (another male named Harapan).

The parents of these three rhinos have died of age-related diseases. The first born male, Andalas, was returned to Indonesia in 2007 and he fathered a baby, born in 2012.

In desperation, Cincinnati Zoo has made it known that they will try to mate Suci with her younger brother Harapan as soon as he is sexually mature, but all observers say that this is a last resort, aimed at breeding Suci before endometriosis starts to set in.



The NGOs and institutions that gave their blessing to the Cincinnati loan plan include Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT), Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA), Danau Girang Field Centre, HUTAN, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) and Malaysian Nature Society (Sabah Branch).

Others include the Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA), Royal Society Southeast Asian Rainforest Research (SEARPP) programme, Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA), Sabah Environmental Trust, Sabah Tourist Guides Association (STGA), The Sabah Society and WWF-Malaysia.

“There may be about a hundred Sumatran rhinos left in Sumatra, but when numbers get that low, in a nation with a large and growing human population, things don’t look good there either,” said Datuk Junaidi Payne, executive director of a Sabah-based NGO, Borneo Rhino Alliance.

“We have been in frequent contact with our Indonesian counterparts for several years, and the message that we get is that they are very hesitant to contemplate bringing in more wild rhinos into fenced, managed conditions, despite the enormous threats to the wild rhinos.

“Their reluctance is in part due to fear of public criticism,” he said. Junaidi believes that Sabah should collaborate with Indonesia and the best global specialists in sharing rhinos, or rhino ova and sperm, for a globally managed breeding programme”.

That way, he says, “We could together reverse the long term fatal trend that this species is now in, and start to get more births than deaths. Sabah has fewer rhinos and fewer options, but paradoxically there is now the need for Sabah to take a leadership role.”


Read the original article here








The Rhino Cup to raise funds for BORA

BORA rhino cup 1

The Rhino Cup, in partnership with Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora), aims to raise a minimum of RM100,000 towards the cost of building the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in Danum Valley.

Aside from the Polo Tournament, the event will feature a bazaar and live music from Blastique, Victor Trixter and a-marQ during the day while Gregory Ramanado and Bazli will entertain the crowd at night.

It will be held from 3pm on Oct 20 at the Royal Selangor Polo Club.

The event is open to all with an admission fee of RM20. For details visit www.facebook.com/therhinocup.


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