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SOS Rhino : In the News : Wildlife department looking for rare rhinos

Wildlife department looking for rare rhinos

The Star Online
Saturday, September 18, 2004

PETALING JAYA: Last November, five Sumatran rhinos died in a captive breeding centre in Sungai Dusun, undermining the entire concept of trying to help multiply the world’s rarest rhino species.

Now, nearly a year later, a team from the state Wildlife Department (Perhilitan) has gone quietly into a forest reserve in Terengganu to capture a few rhinoceros to restart the captive breeding programme.

So far, they have failed to find any of the Sumatran rhinos which number only about 300 in Malaysia and Indonesia and are a favourite with poachers.

About two to five wild rhinos are believed to be in the forest reserve.

Perhilitan director-general Datuk Musa Nordin confirmed the operation but declined to elaborate.

Sources said the wildlife officers were setting traps along paths that the rhinos were believed to be using but have yet to locate any trace of the animals.

They believe that ongoing logging activities by four concessionaires in the production forest might have frightened the animals and forced them deeper into the jungle.

Musa also declined to talk about the department’s plan once an animal is captured.

"It is difficult to discuss this as we have not decided (on the next course of action)," he said.

Asked if the animals would be sent to a zoo in the United States, Musa said: "Whatever we do, we need to get the minister’s consent."

Perhilitan is collaborating with the Malaysian Rhino Foundation (MRF) to save the endangered species.

It is learnt that MRF, which needs new rhinos to restart its captive breeding programme, is also considering sending the captured rhinoceros to the Cincinnati Zoo ­ a partner zoo under the umbrella body of the International Rhino Foundation, a caucus set up in 1993 in response to the worldwide rhinoceros crisis.

MRF director Mohd Khan Momin Khan, however, said he was not aware of the capture operation. He also declined to comment on the "US plan."

After the five rhinos died last year, the MRF programme was heavily criticised and there were calls to relocate displaced animals to national parks instead of keeping them in a breeding centre away from their natural habitat.

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