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SOS Rhino : In the News : Two more rhino deaths halt breeding project

Two more rhino deaths halt breeding project

  Deborah Loh
New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 10: TWO more rhinoceroses died a day apart at the Sungai Dusun Sumatran Rhino Conservation Centre (SRCC) in Hulu Selangor, bringing to three the number of mysterious deaths at the rhino sanctuary in less than two weeks.

A male rhino died on Sunday and a female was found dead yesterday morning.

The male rhino's death has temporarily halted the SRCC's captive breeding project for the species, which is close to extinction with about 300 worldwide remaining. The two rhinos left at the centre are females.

Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) directorgeneral Datuk Musa Nordin said a post-mortem was done on the male rhino at Universiti Putra Malaysia.

Musa said tissue samples from the male rhino were being used to grow cultures to test for the presence of virus or bacteria.

"We are waiting for the report on the cultures to know exactly what the rhino died of," he said yesterday.

The death of the female rhino was confirmed by two veterinarians who had knowledge about or involvement in the post-mortem. They declined to be named.

The two deaths follow that of Seputih, a female rhino, which was reported dead on Oct 31.

Asked about Seputih, Musa said they were still waiting for the reports on the cultures grown from her tissue samples.

Another female rhino died in April. In January last year, a male named Shah had died, reportedly after a week of illness.

Perhilitan sources said the April and previous January deaths are not related to the three recent deaths.

The SRCC, which is run by Perhilitan, has long tried to produce a baby rhino in captivity. Before the deaths, the centre housed seven of the world's 15 captive rhinos.

Malaysia and Indonesia are home to most of the world's remaining wild Sumatran rhinos. Malaysia is estimated to have about 150.

As their population in the wild is decreasing due to the loss of habitat and poaching, conser-vationists hope to breed them in captivity.

They have had little success so far. The last rhino born in captivity was in 2001 in the Cincinnati Zoo, more than 100 years after the first captive birth in Kolkata.

Scientists have yet to determine why it is so hard for rhinos to breed in captivity.