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SOS Rhino : In the News : Rhino deaths hit programme

Rhino deaths hit programme

  11/11/2003 08:22 - (SA)

Kuala Lumpur - Three rare Sumatran rhinoceroses have died in captivity in Malaysia in the last fortnight forcing a halt to a breeding programme for the near extinct species, reports said on Tuesday.

Only 300 of the animals are left worldwide, mainly in Malaysia and Indonesia, as poaching and the destruction of habitats take their toll and captive breeding has shown few signs of success.

The first rhino, a female, died on October 29 at Malaysia's main rhino sanctuary followed by the death of a male on Sunday and another female the following day.

The deaths bring the total to five in the last two years at Sungai Dusun Sumatran Rhinoceros Conservation Centre in central Selangor state leaving only two remaining female rhinos, the New Straits Time said.

A 27-year-old female rhino was found dead in her enclosure in April of old age, while a 16-year-old male died in January last year of illness, the daily said.

Post-mortem examinations showed that the latest deaths were from septicaemia, acute blood poisoning caused by bacteria, the Star said.

It quoted an unnamed veterinarian who said the bacteria could have come from contaminated food, water or the animals' surroundings. Investigations were continuing.

"Protecting rhinos in the wild should be the highest priority, rather than taking them out of it, especially if you house them in one place, making them vulnerable to a virus or bacteria," Chris Shepherd, officer with Traffic Southeast Asia, said.

The last rhino born in captivity was in 2001 in Cincinnati Zoo, more than a century after the first captive birth, the reports said. Malaysia's government-run centre has long tried to produce a baby rhino in captivity.