I am deeply concerned about the fate of “Puntung”, the Sumatran rhino, and of her species in Malaysia generally.
I am of the view that breeding programmes ought to be planned with the cooperation and assistance of reputable foreign zoos and international conservation organisations.
I am perplexed as to why endangered wildlife in the African continent despite the pressures of poaching, deforestation and drought have been able to thrive with no known cases of animals going functionally extinct. Various TV channels, for example, Discovery and National Geographic regularly screen programmes on successful breeding and conservation efforts hosted by naturalists including by the famed conservationist Sir David Attenborough but the fate of the Sumatran rhinoceros has escaped international attention, assistance and collaboration and now appears to be a conservation failure.
The Sumatran rhino should never have been allowed to dwindle in numbers to this extent. The article “Our fatal blunders” by Tan Cheng Li (The Star, June 2, 2014) brought to our attention that between 1984 and 1995, a total of 22 Sumatran rhinos were captured in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah for a captive breeding project but all died without breeding. The reason why such an animal is functionally extinct has not been studied. Rhino dedicated forest reserve parks ought to be created and helicopter-flown veterinarians appointed to protect this species as well as the necessary biological research undertaken on this critically endangered animal.
It has become necessary to seek international help from reputable zoos and the cooperation of Indonesia for cross-border international conservation efforts and breeding programmes under the auspices of WWF jointly with Malaysia or else, not just the Sumatran rhino but various other species such as the Malayan tiger will be lost within this generation.
If necessary the last remaining rhinos should be flown to foreign zoological institutions like the Cincinnati Zoo – which successfully bred three Sumatran Rhinos – for state-of-the-art healthcare, management and research with the cooperation of the Malaysian veterinary authorities and non-governmental conservation organisations to ensure that a successful breeding programme is established. The Cincinnati Zoo later sent the rhino calves to the Rhino Sanctuary in Sumatra for Indonesia’s conservation efforts.
Euthanasia should not be the sole option as chemotherapy, radiation treatment and excision surgery without consideration as to costs and expense ought to also be considered to prolong the life of Puntung, a national living treasure. Her scheduled euthanasia on June 15 should be the last option. This should not affect the proposed removal of her mature eggs for future assisted reproduction which can still be carried out.
Overseas medical treatment must also be an available option irrespective of costs and expense.
CONCERNED MALAYSIAN CONSERVATIONIST
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