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SOS Rhino : In the News : Articles :  Kilbourn to Track Rhinos in Tabin Wildlife Preserve

Kilbourn to Track Rhinos in Tabin Wildlife Preserve


Dr. Annelisa Kilbourn, a field scientist and wildlife veterinarian for SOS Rhino in Borneo, is traveling back to the Tabin wildlife preserve, where she will go into the field to track the number of remaining Sumatran rhinos. She started this tracking program in November 2000.

Kilbourn and SOS Rhino are committed to a full-scale survey of the Tabin preserve using GPS (global positioning system) instruments, satellite photos, and camera traps.

Experts believe approximately ten rhinos may inhabit this preserve, one of the last remaining areas that contain the species.

Kilbourn and ten to twelve staff members are set to survey the area fully and set camera traps, which take pictures of the rare rhinos.

According to the Sumatran rhino research experts, the key is to traverse the entire area repeatedly and look for signs: mud wallows, broken branches where they have been feeding, rub marks on tree trunks, and the most likely evidence of passage, footprints. Based on this evidence, camera traps are set in the area to capture images and identify these individuals. Population demographics (age, sex, distribution) are important for implementing additional RPUs (rhino protection units). The risk of poaching is still high. A Sumatran rhino was killed as recently as March 2001.

Besides poachers, a hazard is the number of elephants in the wilderness, says Kilbourn.

"Elephants squash our cameras," she says. "When a camera senses an animal moving nearby, it takes its picture, setting off a flash. The flash scares the elephant. The elephant retaliates."

"If Kilbourn and company can elephant-proof their cameras and find more than 30 rhinos, they'll be jumping for joy," she says.

Tabin is the largest wildlife reserve in Sabah, 1600 square kilometers, and is located south of the Segama river in northeastern Borneo. It is bordered on all sides by oil palm plantations and mangrove swamp forest.


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