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SOS Rhino : In the News : Herding rhinos into fenced area to mate as solution

Herding rhinos into fenced area to mate as solution


07 July, 2007

Kota Kinabalu: Concentrating Sabah's last remaining rhino population in a large fenced up area within a natural forest to promote mating could well bring it back from the brink of extinction as India and Nepal had succeeded with the Indian Rhino.

Dr A. Christy Williams, program co-ordinator of WWF Asian Elephant and Rhino Programme said Sabah is now also in a position take advantage of Cincinatti Zoo's success in producing three Sumatran rhino babies in its captivity breeding programme.

The first was a male and has been returned to Indonesia for use in local captivity breeding purposes, said Dr Nan Schaffer, President of SOS Rhino.

"It is entirely possible," Dr Nan affirmed when asked of Sabah's chances in its last ditch attempt at saving the remaining herd of 30 to 50 Bornean rhinos found in the southeastern forests. Although Sabah's rhinos are of the Sumatran stock, they are a sub-species.

However, Dr Nan stressed that "these recommendations depend on a willing commitment, moral and financial determination of Sabahans.

"The two species, the White rhino and the Indian rhino recovered because the communities and socieies got behind them," she said at the end of the two-day 4th Sumatran Rhinocerous Conservation held at Pacific Sutera on 5-6 July.

"It wasn't the NGOs who came and saved their animals," she noted as she hinted that saving the Bornean rhino is now at Sabahans' court.

Beyond the rhinos, she cited the Californian Condor (world's largest scavenging bird) which got down to 22 animals.

"They brought them to captivity. It took years but they were able to reintroduce them back to the wild."

Asked if that implied Sabah should not altogether abandon captive breeding after the first round of eight rhinos turned out negative results, she said:

"Think about how far we have come.

"We have done our job in captivity. Cincinatti Zoo was actually able to produce three offsprings now and we have very high hopes that Andalas will now return to its home country Indonesia where he is able to reproduce," Dr Nan noted.

But it was a result of keeping at it for 20 years, she pointed out.

"It has been a long road. This animal is so unique, so different from its larger cousins that there is a lot of stuff that we had to work out: we had to work out the diet, we had to work out its environment, its social relationship, in keeping it healthy - all those requirements had to be worked out and we produced them.

"We worked them all out. So, it will be a waste if realizing that, we weren't able to take advantage of it," she said.
State Culture, Tourism and Environment Minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun, had expressed Sabah's interest in either going over to Cincinatti Zoo or bringing its experts to Sabah.

"We already have a committee that meets about the requirements of captivity all over the world. We can take advantage of it. Our task force will probably be calling upon that group to meet over here to talk about what kind of system could be set up in Sabah . I think that's why we recommended a task force be set up in Sabah," she said.
The prevalance of fibrosis or tumours among the female Sumatran rhinos in Sabah appears to be the biggest reproductive problem and concern.

Dr Nan, a reproductive physiologist whose expertise is on those tumours that interfere with pregnancy, says all the experts in animal management, sanctuary building, transportation, may need to be brought in to see if it is the bets way to go.

"We'll need them to look at what are the details behind the recommendations (arising from the workshop) that are needed to concentrate the animals in Tabin," she said.

"The basic problem with the Sumatran rhino is they are just scattered," Dr Nan said.

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