Su­ma­tran rhino pro­gramme vi­tal to pre­vent species from go­ing ex­tinct

New Straits Times - - News -

KOTA KIN­A­BALU: An an­i­mal con­ser­va­tion pro­gramme ded­i­cated to breed­ing Su­ma­tran rhi­nos is cru­cial to pre­vent the crit­i­cal­lyen­dan­gered species from go­ing ex­tinct, said World Wildlife Fund for Na­ture-Malaysia (WWF) ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Datuk Dr Diony­sius Sharma.

He said while the species was ex­tinct in the wild in Malaysia, there was still hope for the rhi­nos in In­done­sia.

How­ever, he said that or­gan­is­ing a breed­ing pro­gramme would be dif­fi­cult.

“Ex­perts have es­ti­mated that the pop­u­la­tion in In­done­sia is likely to be less than 100, scat- tered in small, iso­lated groups in Su­ma­tra and Kal­i­man­tan.

“The pop­u­la­tion is so thinly spread out that breed­ing is be­lieved to be min­i­mal, which means that this species could go ex­tinct within the next 10 years, if not sooner,” he said.

He added that the case of Pun­tung, one of the last rhi­nos in Sabah, now await­ing eu­thana­sia due to ter­mi­nal skin cancer, was a wake-up call.

Diony­sius called on the Malaysian and Indonesian gov- ern­ments, and all Su­ma­tran rhi­noc­eros con­ser­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tions, to work to­gether through a ded­i­cated team.

He added that the fo­cus of Su­ma­tran rhi­noc­eros con­ser­va­tion should be on res­cu­ing those in the wild for man­age­ment in ad­vanced fa­cil­i­ties, in­creas­ing the num­ber of births, and fa­cil­i­tat­ing the move­ment of in­di­vid­u­als and ga­metes among fa­cil­i­ties as a pop­u­la­tion man­age­ment tool.

The ap­pli­ca­tion of ad­vanced re­pro­duc­tive tech­nol­ogy, as advo- cated by Bor­neo Rhino Al­liance (BORA), which is be­ing at­tempted by in­ter­na­tional re­pro­duc­tive sci­en­tists, re­mains the best bet to en­sure that the species will be saved.

The WWF Net­work ex­ec­u­tive team has man­dated the cre­ation of a Su­ma­tran rhino work­ing group, com­pris­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives from WWF-In­done­sia and part­ner of­fices, to push Su­ma­tran rhino con­ser­va­tion to the top of the agenda of gov­ern­ments, and to seek a com­mon ap­proach and agree­ments among NGOs work­ing on Su­ma­tran rhino con­ser­va­tion.

FILE PIC

Pun­tung is one of the last Su­ma­tran rhinoceroses in Sabah, now await­ing eu­thana­sia due to ter­mi­nal skin cancer.

Datuk Dr Diony­sius Sharma

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