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SOS Rhino : In the News : Evidence of rhinos at 10,000ft on K'balu only 40 years ago!

Evidence of rhinos at 10,000ft on K'balu only 40 years ago!

Independent National Newspaper of East Malaysia
Friday, 23 September, 2005

Kota Kinabalu: That rhinocerous used to roam Mt Kinabalu up to l0,000ft or more until 40 years ago must surely be one of today's biggest surprises.

This stunning fact was unknown until Wednesday night when Datuk Karim Bujang, Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment launched Sabah Society's latest monograph "East Kinabalu" Royal Society Expeditions.

The beast left proof of its presence at 10,000ft on the mountain slopes! The information was recorded by Expedition Leader, Cambridge University Prof. John Corner, when describing his finds in the maiden Royal Society Expedition to the east side of Mt Kinabalu in 1961.

Corner's account entitled "Royal Society Expedition to North Borneo 1961: General Report," on Page 21 of the monograph, reads:

"About 100 ft below the crest of the 10,000ft ridge, there is on the south side a broad ledge, 100 yards (300ft) wide or more, where the coniferous-myrtaceous forest reappears with more frequent and larger grassy glades and shallow sphagnum-bogs.

"Here, Ensoll (a 64-year old Dusun guide) found footprints of rhinocerous and abundant evidence of their browsing. He discovered too why the oakwood was so comparatively easy to move about in. It was worked into narrow corridors and ledges by the passage of large beasts twisting and winding round the rocks and trees. Rhinocerous, wild cattle sambar deer and pig certainly frequented the high ridge!" Prof. Corner said emphatically.

Corner added: "There can be no doubt, however, that on this 10,000ft ridge, a few rhinocerous find a mountain refuge which connects with the undisturbed Pinosuk Plateau to the south and the precipitous Nalumad valley to the north whence they may still have a mountain route to the Mount Templer Reserve."

But where have all the rhinocerous gone?

The so called "undisturbed Pinosuk Plateau", a key corridor and likely rhino foraging habitat for ages has since been cleared and ransacked for agricultural development during the PBS administration.

But the rhino story is one of the huge surprises contained in the monograph co-edited by Dr Ravi Mandalam, G.W.H. Davison and Patricia Regis.

Since the 1961 expedition which started in Poring was stopped midway by steep flanks, precipices, gullies and unsurmountable pinnacles, a second expedition was organised in 1964 and this time, Corner and his team succeeded in reaching the eastern plateau and its highest landmark- King George Peak, via the Kotal Trail.

Karim paid tribute to "the Royal Society Expeditions" which he said "provided the impetus to the move to declare Mount Kinabalu and its surroundings as a protected national park to be protected and cherished for all time to come."

Karim also noted that the eastern route to the summit of King George Peak is today known as Kotal's Route, so named by Prof. Corner, the first time that an expedition leader openly acknowledged and recorded the valuable contributions of a local guide, Karim noted.

"By doing this, Prof. Corner ensured that the mountain guide - Kotal bin Bondial of Kg Kundasang found the rightful place in the history of Mt Kinabalu," he said.

Sabah Society President, Dr. Heng Aik Cheng, described the monograph as "a very real part of Sabah history which in many instances have been forgotten," he said.

"We feel that it's such an important past that we decided to do it," he added.

"We also want to get people's attention to the flora and fauna of the area which is so diverse that such important natural history should not be forgotten," he said.

Citing a video filmed in the 1964 expedition which "showed so much forests up to 9,000ft and then slowly have disappeared completely," Dr Heng said: "This is something we should wake up to now."

On the significance of the monograph, Dr Ravi Mandalam, principal editor, noted five points.

"Firstly, it is the expedition that contributed to the gazetting of Kinabalu as a national park so its importance has to be highlighted; Secondly, it is the first expedition where a sizable number of scientists who are locals from Malaysia.

Two good examples are Prof. Ho Coy Choke who became a Fulbright scholar and is now with the Department of Biotechnlogy, Universiti Malaysia Sabah and Datuk Chin Phui Kong, retired Director of Fisheries.

Thirdly, it is the first major expedition to probe the eastern side off Kinabalu; Fourthly, there are papers which were never available in Sabah before and fifth, I feel it is a very important part of Sabah's history," Dr Ravi said.

Prof. Ho Coy Choke who was present, said the book is "very good and historical."

"I feel it is very interesting, a very general book, not a scientific book but very useful for climbers to have a look at it first before climbing," he said.

Datuk Adeline Leong, former Sandakan Munisipal Council President and a former Director of State libraries, described the monograph as "an amazing piece of work done by the editors."

"They have really given Sabah a gift, very well done and very informative," she said. "I never realised Kinabalu has two sides - the West and the East," she added.

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