TUARAN, Feb 9 (Bernama) — Despite all the odds against the Sumatran rhinoceros, the species “stubbornly refuses to go extinct”, an official here said.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Nayan Ambu said this was the main good news derived from the first day of the Sumatran rhinoceros Global Management and Propagation Board meeting held here.
He said there were still Sumatran rhinos in the same protected areas which were their strongholds in 1995, namely in Bukit Barisan Selatan, Way Kambas and Gunung Leuser in Sumatra, Indonesia, and Danum Valley and the Tabin Wildlife reserve, both in Sabah.
“Also potentially a good news is we can confirm that the Sumatran and Borneo rhinos are genetically close. We may be confident that mixing the two for breeding does have scientific backing.
“In any case, we know that pregnancy in the Sumatran rhino is likely to be the best way to prevent the reproductive tract pathologies which afflict this species,” he said at dinner in conjunction with the meeting here, Tuesday night.
The two-day meeting from Tuesday, is the first GMPB meeting to be held in Malaysia, and represents the first international meeting of Sumatran rhino experts to be held in Sabah since 1995.
Laurentius said however that the prospects for the Sumatran rhino remain bleak, where their population in the wild appeared to continue to decline or at best, not increasing despite the best efforts to protect their habitat as well as the rhinos.
He highlighted that there have been no recent Sumatran rhino births in captive conditions.
“It seems that in order to make the best use of the Sumatran rhinos in captive conditions, at least two measures have to be considered — one is to get few more rhinos in wild conditions to boost the genetic diversity and to try boost prospects for successful natural breeding in captive population.
“We are pursuing this option in Sabah, and since April 2010 we have been targeting capture of a specific young female rhino from the wild,” he added.
The Sumatran rhinoceros once inhabited rainforests, swamps and cloud forests in India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and China, but now they are critically endangered, with only six substantial populations in the wild — four in Sumatra, one in Borneo and another in Peninsular Malaysia.