Borneo Post, Jan 15 2012
BORA is an NGO which is dedicated to uniting partners in a concerted campaign to save Borneo's Sumatran Rhino from extinction.
It is hailed as a Christmas miracle which spells hope of survival for the almost extinct Borneo Sumatran rhinoceros. After three years of searching, the Sabah Wildlife Department and the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) have announced that they have captured a young female one in the Sabah rainforest. Named “Puntung”, she is between 20 and 30 years old. And she has been airlifted into a forest enclosure of 20 hectares in the Tabin Wildlife Forest Reserve where she is expected to mate with Tam, a 20-year-old rhino which was rescued in 2008 while wandering in an oil palm estate.
“It is an ideal age for breeding,” says Junaidi Payne, executive director of BORA. But previous attempts in the 1980s and 90s to breed Borneo Sumatran rhinos in captivity failed. Payne is “cautiously optimistic” that this time it might succeed.
He notes that they don’t seem to mate in the wild. “We have monitored her since 2007 and there is no sign that any other rhino has entered her range in the past five years,” Payne says.
Nobody knows how many Borneo Sumatran rhinos remain; but wildlife officials say there may be less than 40 of them. – Insight Sabah (29 Dec 2011).
By Daily Express – February 10, 2011
Kota Kinabalu: Sabah is open to all genetic resource banking reproductive possibilities with German and American help as a “desperate measure in desperate times” to save its last Sumatran rhinos from extinction.
State Wildlife Director Dr Laurentius Ambu told a gathering of top world rhino propagation experts at the Sumatran Rhinoceros Global Management and Propagation Board (GMPB) dinner Tuesday night at Rasa Ria Resort, Tuaran: “I think we can all agree, that giving up is not an option.”
Dr Ambu said near complete failures in past captive breeding programmes here and in Indonesia makes it clear that Sabah needs to “do some new things.” The largely failed captive propagation efforts is evident from such statistics that of the 43 Sumatran rhinos brought into captive conditions from the wild between 1984 and 2008 (Sabah and Indonesia combined), only one pair produced offsprings (and in Cincinnati Zoo of all places).
The bad news is that while there are no recent Sumatran rhino births in captive conditions, populations in the wild appear to continue to decline, or at best not increase, despite best efforts at protecting the habitat as well as the rhinos.
Ambu said at least two measures have to be considered. ”One is to boost the genetic diversity by capturing a few more wild rhinos and then try to raise the prospects for successful natural breeding in captive populations. ”We are pursuing this option in Sabah and since April 2010 we have been targeting to capture a specific young female rhino from the wild,” he said.
The second is to pursue artificial insemination. This is where German expertise from the Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, is coming in to assist through “an attempt to induce ovulation in captive females named Gelogob through hormone treatment” – an option Sabah is not doing currently because Gelogob is past its normal reproductive age.
“This time, Sabah is getting into a must-genetic resource banking, on top of doing our best to get more births of Sumatran rhinos in captive conditions,” Dr Ambu pointed out.
“This means we’ll be doing cryo-preservation of semen, oocytes, ovarian tissue and embryos,” Ambu explained.
“By doing that, the prospect remains open that the species can be saved from extinction, whatever happens in the next few years in terms of success or failure with natural or assisted breeding,” Ambu added.
Prof. Heribert Hofer said he is “optimistic” for the Sumatran rhino, citing the Indian rhino which once fell to single digit in numbers but has been raised up to “thousands” now.
“The good news is despite all the continuing odds against the Sumatran rhino, the species stubbornly refuses to go extinct,” he noted.
“There are still Sumatran rhinos in the same protected areas which were their strongholds in 1995, such as Indonesia’s Bukit Barisan Selatan, Way Kambas, Gunung Leuser and Sabah’s Danum Valley and Tabin Wildlife Reserve,” Ambu added.
“The other good news is we can confirm that the Sumatran and Borneo forms of the rhino are genetically close. We may be confident that mixing the two for breeding does have scientific backing.
“It remains only for agreement at the policy level to allow us to proceed.”
The rhino global captive propagation programme has probably lost two precious decades due to bad collaboration.
It was initiated at a landmark IUCN-led meeting 26 years ago in 1984 in Singapore, represented by Sabah, Malaysia, Indonesia, USA, UK, governments and NGOs who agreed that conservation of the Sumatran Rhino should be prioritised.
In the same year, the global captive breeding programme involving Indonesia, Malaysia, USA and United Kingdom, was launched but the different partners went their own ways and collaboration was not ideal. But judging by the convergence of a throng of the best German, American, British, Malaysian and Indonesian experts at the GMPB meeting at Rasa Ria to work out the best last ditch propagation measures, “desperate times” seems to be healing the broken collaboration.
The Sumatran rhinoceros once inhabited rainforests, swamps and cloud forests in India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and China, but now they are critically endangered, with only six substantial populations in the wild – four in Sumatra, one in Borneo and another in Peninsular Malaysia.
The experts present include Dr Susie Ellis, executive director of International Rhino Foundation, Dr Heribert Hofer, Director of Leibnitz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research which focuses on “complicated species” such as the rhino, Dr Terri Roth, Director of Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation & Research for Endangered Wildlife (CREW) which distinguished itself for successfully reproducing the first Sumatran Rhino calf in captivity in 2001, Dr Nan Schaffer of SOS Rhino, Widodo Ramono, chairman of GMPB cum executive director of the Indonesia’s Rhino Foundation, Dr Arun Ventakaraman of WWF-Malaysia, Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne, executive director of Bora and others.
Datuk Ellron Angin, Assistant Minister of Culture, Tourism and Environment represented his Minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun.
By LARRY RAILON-Daily Express, 23 November 2010
Kota Kinabalu: The world’s attention will be on the Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary in Lahad Datu for the next 12 months or so to witness an attempt to breed the Sumatran rhinoceros – the world’s most endangered rhino species.
This will be done under a collaboration between the State Government and Germany. If successful, it will be an important milestone not only for the State’s conservation efforts but also the world.
The Sumatran rhino has been known all the while to be very sensitive with countless attempts made previously to breed it failing.
The breeding attempt is one of the collaboration projects under the Memorandum of Understanding sealed between the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), the Leipzig Zoo (LZ) and State Government, represented by the Sabah Wildlife Department.
It was signed Wildlife Director Dr Laurentius N. Ambu, IZW Director Prof. Dr Heribert Hofer DPhil and LZ Director Dr Jorg Junhold in a ceremony held at the department headquarters in Wisma Muis, here, Monday. The MoU is aimed at combining international expertise and resources in order to prevent further losses of biodiversity.
Sabah is internationally renowned as one of the world’s most important hotspots of biodiversity, including the world’s oldest rainforests with its associated fauna and flora. According to the IUCN, Sabah’s large animals – such as the Sumatran rhinoceros, Borneo pygmy elephants, Sunda clouded leopard and orang-utan, which are seriously threatened, face an extinction crisis.
For several years already, both the Wildlife Department and IZW have cooperated in conducting research on the conservation needs of threatened Bornean carnivores. This initiative has raised international attention through the re-discovery of the hairy-nosed otter in Sabah after over 100 years, and the first video ever taken of the Sunda clouded leopard or the endangered otter civet. With the MoU signed, this partnership will expand its remit to other Bornean flagship species such as the Sumatran rhino.
Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has agreed to finance the attempt to breed the Sabah rhino, the first project in the collaboration.
The Sabah rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis harrissoni) is a subspecies of the Sumatran rhino and primarily lives in the lowland rainforests of the State. It is the smallest rhino and with less than 50 individuals it is the most endangered rhino species on the planet after the Northern white rhino in Africa. The Wildlife Department, with the cooperation of the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) and WWF Malaysia, started a comprehensive conservation programme to protect and breed these impressive rhinos.
The Bornean Rhino Rescue Programme is jointly funded by the Malaysian Government through the Sabah Development Corridor as well as Yayasan Sime Darby. “Yayasan Sime Darby has been very instrumental in initialising the Rhino Rescue Programme here in Sabah. The IZW will contribute to this programme with its scientific expertise in assisted reproduction techniques, and the LZ will contribute their skills in animal husbandry and will train our local staff in handling the animals,” said Dr Laurentius.
The IZW is known for its scientifically based approach to conservation research. “With the financial support from the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education, which has recently been granted for the Sabah rhino project, we are able to implement research and to support the local breeding programme with high tech equipment and a team of experts from Germany and Australia,” said Dr Heribert. LZ will send skilled keepers to Sabah in order to exchange their experiences in captive management, enrichment techniques and in enclosure design with the local keepers in Lok Kawi and Tabin. “On top of this we will inform more than two million visitors annually about Sabah’s outstanding rhino conservation project in our tropical hall ‘Gondwanaland’, which will open in 2011,” said Dr Jorg.
The IZW and LZ are closely collaborating with dan pearlman, a German brand and experience architecture firm, which will help promote the Sabah rhino project in Germany.
The cooperation between the Wildlife Department, IZW and LZ was initiated in November 2009 during a visit by the directors of the two German institutions in Sabah. The parties agreed to cooperate, improve, develop and implement strategies in the fields of wildlife conservation research, wildlife veterinary medicine and zoo management science. Shortly after their visit, the experts from both organisations performed a reproductive assessment of a captive male and female rhino, conducted by a specialist team of wildlife veterinarian scientists led by Dr Thomas Hildebrant from IZW and Prof. Chris Walzer from the Veterinary University of Vienna.
In January next year, the next step of the programme of reproductive research will take place.
“A female rhino, recently transferred to Tabin, will be stimulated with hormones and artificially inseminated,” said Dr Petra Kretzschmar from IZW. Explaining further, she said the resulting embryos will be collected and frozen in liquid nitrogen. Her genes are very valuable for the survival of the species but she is unfortunately too old to breed naturally.Acting swiftly is necessary for the success of the Sabah rhino conservation programme and its associated research.
Large areas of rhino habitat have disappeared for oil palm production which has fragmented the landscape, making reproductive contact between individuals difficult.
The Rhino and Forest Fund, a German-based non-governmental organisation, will supplement the conservation research programme of IZW and LZ, restoring and reconnecting degraded and fragmented forest land through reforestation.
The aim is to increase habitat and reconnect patches of rainforest, enabling the movements of individuals and the continuation of breeding of isolated populations.
The project is conducted in cooperation with the Sabah Forestry Department.
It is believed that this approach, including cutting edge scientific know-how from IZW, training and preparation from a prominent zoo, a reforestation programme and a public awareness campaign is unique and necessary for the rescue of one of the most endangered species on earth.
TABIN (Lahad Datu): The only female Sumatran Rhinoceros kept in captivity at the Lokawi Wildlife Park was safely translocated to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, near here yesterday.
Gelegub, the 28-year-old rhino, is now part of the Borneo Rhino Conservation Programme also known as the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary Programme in Tabin. The aim of the programme is to ward off the extinction of the species which now numbers at less than 50 in the wild.
The rhino underwent a 12-hour journey from the Lokawi Wildlife Park to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, leaving the park at 6.30pm on Tuesday and arriving at about 6am yesterday. She was accompanied by a convoy headed by the Park’s Veterinarian, Dr Roza Sipangkui, staff of the Sabah Wildlife Department’s (SWD) Wildlife Rescue Unit and its veterinarians. They were also assisted by police.
Gelegub has been placed at the Lokawi Wildlife Park for the last three years prior to the move.
Sabah Wildlife Department Director, Dr Laurentius Ambu said that the decision to move Gelegub was made after consulting with rhino experts in the country as well as from abroad.
“The threat of extinction on the rhino is imminent, with less than 50 left in the wild presently and mainly in fragmented forest,” he said.
He said that SWD are working together with the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA), World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), Liebniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research and Liepzig Zoo with the effort to rescue the rhinos at these fragmented forest and bring them to the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary (BRS) where they can meet and mate naturally.
The BRS programme is jointly funded by the State Government and Yayasan Sime Darby.
Laurentius also commented that Gelegub is already too old for natural mating.
However, extensive examination has been carried out on her by local and foreign experts and they believe that she would still be able to produce viable eggs which could then be fertilized with the semen collected by the male rhino kept captive at Tabin.
The male rhino presently residing at the facility is known as Kertam. He added that for the fertilization works to take place, both female and male rhinos must be kept close to each other.
Meanwhile, BRS programme coordinator for the Sabah Wildlife Department, Dr Sen Nathan explained that the electroejaculation, ovarian stimulation, oocyte recovery and invitro fertilization as well as production of embryos would be the first of its kind carried out on Sumatran Rhinoceros.
“We will be working very closely with a team of rhino experts from Liebniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research. We hope to carry out this ground-breaking procedure by late November,” he said. He added that risks are involved when carrying out the procedures.
“As with any medical procedures there are always risks. But we will take all important and critical steps to manage these risks. The age factor of Gelegub is our greatest concern. She is an old girl.”
However, with the team of experts that will be assemblying in Tabin for the procedure, Dr Sen said that he is confident the rhinos will be given the best standard of care possible.
Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) will continue to support efforts to prevent the extinction of Malaysia’s most endangered species, the Sumatran rhino. This was the message from Y.Bhg. Brig. Gen Prof Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Kamaruzaman Hj Ampon, Vice-Chancellor of UMS, stressed to the Board of Directors of Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA), during a courtesy call by BORA to the Vice-Chancellor on 7th June, 2010. “The administrative HQ of BORA is located within UMS. In addition to that, UMS would be happy to host post-graduate students who may wish to conduct research on the Sumatran rhino in Sabah,” said Professor Kamaruzaman. Formerly known as SOS Rhino Borneo, BORA is a Sabah-based non-governmental organization, established as a non-profit company, dedicated to working to save Sabah’s – as well as Malaysia’s and Borneo’s – most endangered wild animal species, the rhinoceros. BORA informed Professor Kamaruzaman that the Sumatran rhino is now so rare that the species probably has a chance to survive only in Sumatra and Sabah. “Focusing on one species, that may well go extinct without a programme to reduce death rate and increase birth rate, has the advantage of ensuring that we target our efforts and avoiding distractions,” said Associate Professor Dr Abdul Hamid Ahmad, director of the Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ITBC) at UMS and Chairman of BORA. “But the rhino is down to such low numbers, no-one can be sure that the species will survive in Malaysia. Working with Sabah Wildlife Department and other key institutions, we will give it our best shot. Whatever happens, twenty or thirty years from now, we can all look back assured that we did whatever we could to save a species from extinction.” Dr Junaidi Payne, Executive Director of BORA, as well as consultant to WWF-Malaysia, expressed thanks to Professor Kamaruzaman and Dr. Abdul Hamid for providing office space for BORA in ITBC. “The individuals and institutions concerned with the rhino in Sabah now have to collaborate with one vision, if there is to be any hope of saving this species.” Cynthia Ong, founder of the NGO LEAP, and also a director of BORA, echoed this sentiment.
By RUBEN SARIO, The Star, 19 April 2010
KOTA KINABALU: Wildlife experts here remain hopeful about the future of the highly endangered Sumatran rhino following a rare picture of a 20-year-old female that is believed to be pregnant. The picture of the female rhino was captured by remote camera trap devices set up jointly by the Sabah Wildlife Department and WWF-Malaysia. The picture was considered rare as there were estimated to be less than 30 rhinos left on the entire island of Borneo.
International Rhino expert Dr. Terri Roth said she was hoping that the female rhino was indeed pregnant.
“There are so few Sumatran rhinos left in the world that each calf represents a lifeline for the species, she said here Tuesday.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said the department was working with WWF-Malaysia and the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) to finalise the Rhino Action Plan that which would be expected to be ready for full implementation by August this year. The plan would address the conservation plans of the viable population including isolated rhinos, Dr Laurentius added. He said his department intended to take a “different” approach in managing the viable but isolated rhino population in Sabah.
Habitat protection and enforcement have been recognised as the main strategy in order to ensure the survival of the viable rhino population in forest reserves, while a breeding programme has been identified as the key strategy in order to address the conservation plan for the isolated rhinos, Dr Laurentius added.
The rhino breeding programme is currently supported by Sime Darby, the Malaysian federal government and WWF-Malaysia. The future of rhinos in Borneo now depends on how seriously the enforcement and security work in the forest reserves can be implemented and coordinated, said Raymond Alfred, Head of the Borneo Species Programme, WWF-Malaysia. The monitoring and survey work in the central forest of Sabah is currently supported by HONDA Malaysia, WWF-Netherlands, WWF-Germany and USFWS since 2005.
WWF-Malaysia is working with the department and the Sabah Forestry Department to look into reinforcing the security of the forest reserves that are the key habitats for the animals. Alfred noted that that data from an ongoing rhino monitoring and survey programme showed that the animals’ home range was affected by oil palm plantation expansion near the state’s coastal areas. The research also indicated that sustainable logging activities had minimal impact on the rhino population while conversion of forests especially those located adjacent to key rhino habitat into other mono-crop plantations such as oil palm would further worsen the fragmentation of the rhino population.
3rd March 2010
A big boost to BORA’s work was made today when three 4WD vehicles were purchased using the RM5 million fund from Sime Darby Foundation, the main funding organization for the current work on the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary.
Chairman of the BORA Board of Directors, Dr Abdul Hamid, received the Ford Ranger vehicles at the Institute of Tropical Biology and Conservation at Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Kota Kinabalu on 3rd March, 2010.
Until now BORA staff in the field had to rely on one aging 4WD vehicle to carry out all their activities so the addition of the new Ford Rangers will be a huge boost.
An added bonus was getting tax exemption for the three vehicles from the Malaysian government, for which BORA is extremely grateful.
Said Dr Junaidi Payne “Our work is largely field based. I cannot emphasise enough the need for this type of vehicle.”
March 17 2009 saw LEAP helping to organise another groundbreaking conservation fundraising event with its partner organisation, BORA.
A ‘RHINO RESCUE LUNCH’ was held at a leading hotel in Kota Kinabalu. The Guest of Honour was the Sabah Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Masidi Manjun and over 70 people participated, with representatives from the government, NGO and private sectors, as well as concerned individuals.
An amazing RM530,000 (about USD$150,000) was raised through a novel and interactive pledge-making process where pieces of a giant jigsaw of a rhino picture were ‘bought’ by donors. The event helped to bring the plight of the Bornean rhino to a much wider audience and resulted in operational funds being secured for the BORA Rhino Protection Unit to function for another year.
Click on a photo to view some of the highlights of the Lunch.
Kota Kinabalu, 23rd August, 2008: The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) successfully completed a two week long rescue operation of a single male from the critically endangered Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis harrissoni) subspecies.
“It was obvious that the rhino was injured to some degree as it left its forest which had difficult terrain to come out on the flat terrain of the oil palm plantation,” explained Dr. Senthilvel Nathan, Chief Field Veterinarian of the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD).
Senthilvel led the rescue operation to translocate the rhino safely out of the palm oil plantation and settle it in the rhino paddock at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve (TWR) located east of Lahad Datu.
“It was a delicate operation as we had to make sure that the rhino was not stressed by having human’s so close to it. When we first got there, the rhino showed signs of aggression and made mock chargers at us but we kept our distance and left leaves and fruits for it to eat as the oil palm environment is not suitable for wildlife,” explained Senthilvel.
For 10 days, a team of SWD Ranger’s and veterinarians stayed close to rhino at the plantation to habituate their presence to it before getting close enough to check on its condition and to prepare it for its translocation.
“We had to make sure it was getting enough water and food and was healthy because moving wildlife can be very stressful for them,” said Senthivel.
WWF-Malaysia believes that the rescued rhino is also the same rhino that was captured on their camera and video trap in February of 2007 as part of their rhino tracking efforts in the same area.
Working together, the group of 24 undertook the task to monitor the rhino for 24 hours a day and the delicate operation to move the rhino from the plantation to its new home.
“The morning we moved the rhino, myself and Veterinarian Dr. Roza Sipagkui made an assessment to see if he was healthy enough for the four hour journey by road and barge to Tabin,” said Senthivel.
Remarkably their was no need to sedate the rhino as he was easily coaxed into the crate with fresh leaves and fruit.
“After a few attempts to coax the rhino into the crate, it finally walked in effortlessly and without the need for any type of sedation,” according to Senthivel.
Roza rode in the back of the truck with the rhino in the crate for the journey monitoring the rhino closely for any signs of stress and aggression.
“We had sedatives on standby the entire time but as the rhino remained remarkably calm we did not use it all which was also good for the rhino,” explained Senthivel.
According to SWD Director, the rhino has been translocated to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve as it has been designated as the new Bornean Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary.
“The rescue of this adult male rhino in his prime is timely as the Department is addressing the rhino population issue by launching a semi-captive rhino breeding programme based in Tabin,” shared SWD Director, Laurentius Ambu.
The decision to carry out a rhino breeding programme in semi-captivity was made by the State Rhino Task Force (SRTF) which was formed following the Fourth Sumatran Rhino Conservation Workshop held in July last year.
“At that Workshop, Datuk Masidi Manjun made a firm commitment of the State Government to address the issue of the rapidly dwindling number of rhino and this Task Force was established due to his commitment in saving the rhinos,” said Laurentius.
Datuk Masidi Manjun, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment had stated that, every possible action gear toward the preservation of the rhinoceros and propagation of their population had to be taken.
To ensure the survival of the species, Masidi said people need to be educated to look at the rhinoceros as a national treasure.
“It is an uphill battle. But I hope everyone including scientists and NGOs will come together and work for the conservation of the rhinos which we all should consider our natural heritage,” said Masidi, adding that that the cooperation of plantation owners and the hunters was also imperative.
Laurentius also commended the quick action of the Unico Estate General Manager, Chew Beng Hock and Temenggong Estate Manager, Gucharan Singh for immediately informing and assisting the Department in transporting the rhino.
“The fact that the rhino was not harmed and that the Department was informed immediately tells us two things. First, that people are aware that the rhino is a totally protected species and that if anyone had harmed him, it would be a mandatory jail time for them and secondly they recognise how it is a really unique and special animal that needs to be saved,” said Laurentius.
“We must do everything we possible can to save the remaining population from the brink of extinction. The Rhino Task Force is working in collaboration with worldwide rhino experts to carry out this semi-captive breeding programme,” explained Laurentius who’s Department chairs the Task Force with member being from the Sabah Forestry Department and NGOs, SOS Rhino Borneo and WWF-Malaysia.
The State Government is currently working to raise the estimated RM20 million needed to set-up the fully fenced and protected area which could be up to 1000 hectares in size.
“It is a huge undertaking financially, but we must do this because this is most likely our last chance to save this Sumatran Rhino sub-species which is only found here from going extinct,” said Laurentius.
It is estimated that only 30 individuals of this Sumatran Rhino sub-species remain in the wildlife in Sabah.