Indonesia’s first relocated Sumatran Rhino birth sparks hope of survival
UPDATED @ 01:00:16 PM 23-06-2012
Conservationists are hopeful that this birth will mark a long-awaited success at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, which the International Rhino Foundation opened in 1998. The sanctuary is maintained in partnership with the Rhino Foundation of Indonesia and Way Kambas National Park, Indonesia Ministry of Forestry.
In Sabah, the pairing of Tam and Punting in January is considered a “miracle” by the wildlife department there as bones in Puntung’s front left foot were missing, indicating that her foot had been ripped out by what was most likely an illegal wildlife trap when she was young.
“Puntung was captured because years of monitoring her revealed that no other rhino had come into her range. This is symptomatic of many other species of wildlife in Sabah as their habitat is broken up and we have a lack of linkages between them.
“This increases the level of threats to wildlife as the situation gives opportunity to poachers and increases conflicts with humans as access to fragmented areas is not difficult,” Dr Laurentius Ambu, Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) had said.
The potential mating of Tam and Puntung, aged between 10 to 12, at the Tabin wildlife reserve in Sabah, has raised hopes that it may be possible to pull the Sumatran rhino back from the brink of extinction.
“This is now the very last chance to save this species, one of the most ancient forms of mammal,” Laurentius was quoted as saying in an earlier report.
This is the third pregnancy for Ratu, who lost her first pregnancy after two months and her second after less than a month, at the sanctuary which was opened in 1998 in a bid to save the Dicerorhinus sumatrensis, the smallest species of rhinoceros in the world.
Andalas, the young rhino who bred with Ratu in early March 2011, was brought from the United States in the hopes that he would one day breed with one or more of the three females at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary.
“We have been with Ratu every step of the way during her pregnancy. Ratu’s pregnancy gives hope... and our whole team is excited to be a part of this moment in conservation history,” said Dr. Dedi Candra, the sanctuary’s head veterinarian and animal collections manager.
Ellis will work with the veterinary team immediately after the birth to harvest placental cells that can be used to generate stem cells which may be used to cure diseases and help promote reproduction among the “hairy rhino,” so called for its hairy body and tufted ears.
The Sumatran rhino is seriously threatened by the continuing loss of its tropical forest habitat, blamed on the swiftly expanding palm oil trade by some conservationists and hunting pressure from poachers, who kill rhinos for their valuable horns.
Malaysia and Indonesia, who share the richly diverse forests of Borneo, are giants in the palm oil industry and control 80 per cent of global supply. The clearing of forests for palm oil plantations has long been blamed for the dwindling numbers of various wildlife especially the orangutan.
Because of poaching, numbers have decreased more than 50 percent over the last 20 years, and the rate of decline has caused alarm over the species’ extinction by the end of the century.
Rhino pregnancies are some of the longest in the animal kingdom, taking 16 to 18 months to reach term.