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SOS Rhino : In the News : Malaysia to restart breeding programme with rhino from Indonesia

Malaysia to restart breeding programme with rhino from Indonesia

  Associated Press
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 12

The Malaysian government hopes to restart a captive breeding programme for a rare rhinoceros that was halted by the recent death of its last male, a minister said.

The government hopes to exchange one of its two remaining Sumatran rhino females with a male from Indonesia, said Law Hieng Ding, minister for science, technology and the environment. The recent death of animals in the programme - one of a handful in the world to try to save the endangered rhino - should not discourage breeding efforts, Law said.

"We're trying to get a male rhino from Indonesia in exchange for one of our females," Law was quoted as saying in Wednesday's New Straits Times. "I'm very concerned as the deaths are a setback to one of our major breeding programmes for endangered animals." The last male rhino at the Sungai Dusun Sumatran Rhino Conservation centre died on Sunday from suspected bacterial infection that is believed to have killed a female on Monday. The deaths left the centre two females, which are also sick. Five of the centre's seven rhinos have died since January last year, including the programme's only other male.

Veterinary officers said the post-mortem results for the recent deaths will be available in about ten days.

Dionysius Sharma, programme director for the Malaysian chapter of conservation group Worldwide Fund for Nature, said the deaths could have resulted from various reasons, including distress. "It is generally difficult to duplicate the natural habitat of a wild animal and some animals are sensitive to their surroundings," Sharma said. "When an animal becomes distressed, its resistance level falls. If it becomes too ill, it may die." The Sumatran is the smallest of the world's five types of rhinos and among the rarest of large mammals. Less than 300 are believed to be living in the wild, mostly in Malaysia and Indonesia, and are being threatened by poachers and loss of habitat, experts say.