|By Dr. Edwin Bosi, Program Officer
For the past 24 months (December 2000 - December 2002), the
field teams have systematically scouted the Tabin Wildlife Reserve (TWR)
for evidence of Sumatran rhino. Using the "fishbone" method, a west-east
transect covering approximately 65 km was used and practically divides
the reserve into two halves. About 50% of the reserve is surveyed.
Entrance to Tabin Wildlife Reserve via Tungku Road.
Aerial picture of SOS Rhino (Borneo)"s base camp at Tabin
In 2002 alone, 30 surveys were conducted in Tabin reserve
including one general survey organized jointly with the Wildlife Department
Sabah and AREAS-WWF Sabah from 8th 20th October.
A helicopter survey on April 22nd was also conducted over the
reserve together with the Wildlife Department Sabah, AREAS-WWF Sabah, Singapore
Zoological Gardens and SOS Rhino (Borneo). SOS Rhino (Borneo)"s field teams
were supported by volunteers from Singapore through the Singapore International
Foundation, Raleigh International and individuals from US, Canada and UK.
Fresh rhino trail
Fresh rhino hoof print
Fresh rhino trail found on mud volcano
What are the implications? We have somewhat established,
based on data gathered, that there are 6 known, 16 probable and 32 possible
Sumatran rhinos in Tabin reserve. We have seen some level of human activities
inside the reserve but so far, there is no evidence of poaching of this
critically endangered species. The Forestry and Wildlife Departments have
implemented several measures in combating the illegal activities in the
reserve. Needless to say, we have provided information on the locations
of these activities.
Small snare traps discovered during wildlife general survey
There is a need to continue to undertake surveys until we
are confident of the population density. We have two researches; one on
nutrition and the other on genetic fingerprinting. The nutrition is critical
as we are concerned about carrying capacity and as a tool to decide on
relocation exercises if there is a need. The genetic analysis using dung
looks at individual profile and gender. A complete demographic study of
the species is important for making a right management decision for the
species. Leni Tupang, the SOS Rhino (Borneo)"s Field Coordinator hopes
to enroll with University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) for her Masters in rhino
Leni Tupang, SOS Rhino (Borneo)"s Field Co-ordinator.
The involvement of volunteers is equally important. First,
they provide extra manpower in the search for rhino evidence. Looking for
hoof prints needs the involvement of many trackers in such a huge reserve.
Secondly, the volunteers are agents of conservation and also help in the
promotion of rhino conservation and Tabin reserve as a tourist destination.
Volunteers will be very vital for the success of the community outreach
program whereby villagers along the reserve boundary are encouraged to
establish tourism-related activities within their villages and surrounding
areas. Volunteers will benefit from the field experience, cultural experience
and a chance to see other parts of the country.
Raleigh International volunteers in the forest
Volunteers learning about oil palms from Sabahmas plantation,
one of SOS Rhino partners in conservation
Singapore expert volunteers training SOS Rhino staffs on
Singapore volunteers found fresh hoof prints in the misty
forest of Tabin
The year 2002 has not seen any success with the breeding
of the last pair of Sumatran rhino at Sepilok. Again, we are bogged down
with male aggression that renders joining very dangerous for the female.
Efforts are continuing to match hormonal assays with behavior, in order
to confirm the particular moment of sexual receptiveness. Dr. Rosa and
her two assistants together with wildlife rangers from the rhino unit are
working very hard in getting the pair to breed naturally.
Dr Rosa (in White) with one of her assistants.
Showing mucus discharge which is one of signs of estrus or
Rhinos involved in courtship
Rhinos involved in natural mating
SOS Rhino (Borneo) field teams are working closely with the
Wildlife Department. A team joined the Wildlife Department"s team in undertaking
a fauna survey of the Crocker Range, which was jointly organized by the
Institute of Tropical Biology and Conservation, UMS, JICA (Japan) and Sabah
Parks in September 2002. Later four of our field team members attended
and passed the honorary game warden course organized by the Wildlife Department.
This will provide extra hands for the Wildlife Department in the enforcement
of its wildlife conservation enactment.
WWF Sabah training SOS Rhino field staffs on GIS
Another achievement was the successful 2nd Sumatran
rhino conservation seminar in June 2002. The seminar brought together people
from the Wildlife Department, UMS, WWF-Sabah, other government agencies,
oil palm plantations, nature resorts and several NGOs. The Assistant Minister
Datuk Karim Bujang has kindly officiated in the seminar. The newspapers
gave a very encouraging coverage of all the papers presented. Success with
the seminar encouraged us to start moving on our community outreach program
or COP. This is an important program because we include villagers and oil
palm plantation owners to look at sustainable conservation within the context
of their existence around the rhino habitat.
Assistant Minister of Tourism, Environment, Science and Technology
Datuk Karim Bujang taking a boat ride during his visit to Kampung Parit,
north of Tabin reserve.
Datuk Karim Bujang and entourage meeting with the people
of Kampung Parit, north of Tabin reserve on October 31st.
While we struggled to determine the population density, enforcement,
training, volunteers, we were suddenly confronted by the tragedy befalling
on our Field Scientist. It was with sadness that we were notified of the
demise of our Field Scientist Dr. Annelisa Kilbourn in Gabon, Africa in
November 2002. She was truly a remarkable wildlife veterinarian and conservationist.
Her legacy lives with two memorial funds established by SOS Rhino and WCS
under her name. Several memorial services were held in Chicago, Singapore,
Tabin reserve, and New York.
Dr. Annelisa's memorial service at Tabin reserve.