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SOS Rhino : In the News : Recent expedition reports sighting of wild Sumatran rhino

Recent expedition reports sighting of wild Sumatran rhino

  10 Jul 2006
Roy Goh

New Straits Times Online

KOTA KINABALU: A recent expedition to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu has lifted hopes for the preservation of the Sumatran rhinos.

For the first time ever, a wild Sumatran rhino was manually photographed while members of the three-week expedition also recorded two sightings and other signs indicating that the rhino’s population may grow if its surroundings remain undisturbed.

The expedition, from June 17 to July 6, was jointly conducted by SOS Rhino, an international organisation dedicated to the protection of rhinos, together with the Sabah Wildlife Department and Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

The findings of the expedition is the second major breakthrough in Sabah this year. Last month, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) - Malaysia and the Sabah Wildlife department announced the first ever photograph of a wild Sumatran rhino taken by motion-triggered camera.

A member of the expedition team, Arief Rubianto, a ranger from the SOS Rhinos' Rhinos Protection Unit of Indonesia, said the team detected seven rhinos.

"Of the seven rhinos detected, three were confirmed males, one female with a young, another female on its own while the seventh rhino was detected but its gender could not be confirmed," he said.

Two of the rhinos were detected visually while the rest were detected by footprints, scratch marks from their horns and droppings. It is estimated that there are at least 15 to 20 rhinos in the wildlife reserve.

"We surveyed about 25 per cent of the area, which is about 120,000ha. I believe there could be more rhinos," said Arief who has been protecting rhinos in Indonesia for the last 13 years.

Arief also believed that the number of rhinos in the reserve would grow up to 30 within the next five to 10 years if the area remains undisturbed.

Meanwhile, Dr MS Thayaparan, a programme officer with the Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), who is also SOS Rhino programme officer, said the university and the organisation has worked together in the last five years on conservation studies.

A conservation club is also being planned by UMS to raise awareness of the Sumatran rhinos which is one of the most critically endangered species in the world.

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