Thursday, April 22, 2010

Images of pregnant rhino captured by devices

CONSERVATION PLAN NEEDED: Pictures of the pregnant rhino captured on camera-trap devices. — Photo courtesy of WWF-Malaysia /Borneo Species Programme

KOTA KINABALU: Images of the near-extinct Sumatran rhino believed to be a pregnant female and estimated to be below 20 years old, was captured by Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and WWF-Malaysia’s remote camera trap devices recently.

This strengthens the argument to maintain and improve the enforcement and security of the forest and wildlife reserves in this part of the region. Presently, the rhino population is estimated to be less than 30 in Borneo, said International Rhino expert Dr Terri Roth.

“It would be wonderful if this female is pregnant, since there are so few Sumatran rhinos left in the world that each calf represents a lifeline for the species.” SWD director Dr Laurentius Ambu highlights the importance of strong and co-ordinated enforcement in the forest and wildlife reserves by the relevant government agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in order to ensure the survival of this species in the Borneo’s forests.

Currently, the WWF-Malaysia is working closely with other government agencies such as the SWD, Sabah Forestry Department and Sabah Foundation, with the support from the Royal Malaysian Police, to ensure the safety and survival of this endangered species in Borneo. Ambu mentioned that consistent monitoring of the rhino population here has been productive so far, as two rhino calves have been identified in this part of the region.

“The Sabah Wildlife Department is currently working closely with WWF-Malaysia and Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) to finalise the Rhino Action Plan which will be expected to be ready for full implementation by August 2010. “The ‘Rhino Action Plan’ will address the conservation plans of the viable population including isolated rhinos,” said Ambu.

He emphasises that his department will have a different approach in managing the viable and isolated rhino population in Sabah, adding habitat protection and enforcement have been recognised as the main strategy in order to ensure the survival of the viable rhino population in forest reserves, whilst rhino breeding programme has been identified as the key strategy in order to address the conservation plan for the isolated rhinos. Ambu added the rhino breeding programme is currently supported by Sime Darby, the Malaysian federal government and WWF-Malaysia.

“The future of rhinos in Borneo now depends on how seriously the enforcement and security work in the forest reserves can be implemented and coordinated,” WWF-Malaysia Borneo Species Programme head Raymond Alfred said. He added the monitoring and survey work in the central forest of Sabah is currently supported by Honda Malaysia, WWF-Netherlands, WWF-Germany and USFWS since 2005.

WWF-Malaysia is joining forces with the Sabah Wildlife and Forestry Departments to look into reinforcing the security of the forest reserves where rhinos inhabit. Alfred mentioned that the data gathered from a continuing rhino monitoring and survey programme in this part of region shows that the home range of the rhinos is affected by oil palm expansion near the coastline, sustainable logging activities have minimal impact on the rhino population and forest conversion of the natural forests, especially those located adjacent to key habitat for the rhinos, into other mono-plantation (particularly oil palm) would further worsen the fragmentation of the rhino population.

WWF-Malaysia believes that full espousal and co-operation from the relevant land developers and forest managers to restore the corridor and also address illegal encroachment would help support the survival of rhinos in Sabah.

Source Borneo Post April 21, 2010

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