PETALING JAYA: The Sumatran rhino is now extinct from Malaysia’s jungles, a group of scientists has declared.
In a report in the international-based journal Oryx, the scientists wrote that other than the two rhinos caught in 2011 and last year, there was no sign of the animal here even after years of searching.
“As of June, no further sign of the species has been found in Sabah, and it is safe to consider the species extinct in the wild in Malaysia,” the report, co-authored by 11 experts from around the world, read.
There are only three Sumatran rhinos in captivity in Malaysia, all in Sabah.
The last sighting of the rhino in the peninsula was in 2007.
Borneo Rhino Alliance head Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne told The Star that the Sumatran rhino was doomed by a lack of breeding and that it was hunted by poachers.
He said every rhino still living today had to be closely managed and no country was solely responsible for saving the animal.
“We should certainly be thinking of boosting Sumatran rhino numbers through a single programme that is not based on nationalistic thinking,” he said.
Dr Payne, who is one of the report’s 11 authors, is currently working with the Sabah government on artificial impregnation of the state’s female rhinos.
The Sumatran rhino is Malaysia’s last surviving rhino species. Its cousin, the Javan rhino went extinct after the last of its kind in Malaya was shot in 1932.
In Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said it was still premature to conclusively declare that the Sumatran rhinos had gone extinct in the wild in Sabah.
He said although the chances were slim, they were still holding out hope.
Dr Sen said two years ago, WWF camera traps recorded two rhinos in the wild in central Kalimantan, where these animals were long thought to have gone extinct.
He said any further discovery of rhinos in Sabah would likely be at the Danum Valley or in the Tabin conservation areas.
Dr Sen, the department’s wildlife veterinarian, said they would rescue any rhinos found in the wild and consolidate them at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in the east coast Lahad Datu district.
There are already three rhinos at the sanctuary, a male named Tam Tam and females Puntung and Iman.
However, all the three rhinos have problems in their reproductive systems and are unable to breed.
Dr Sen said without any further discoveries of rhinos in the wild, hopes were diminishing for the future of these creatures in Sabah.