Experts: We’ve lost battle on rhino conservation

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 26 May 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Efforts to preserve the critically endangered Sumatran rhino from extinction in Malaysia have reached the “end of the road”, say senior conservationists.

They are of the view that resources should now be diverted to saving other species.

Sabah conservationists feel that urgent steps should be initiated to prevent other wildlife species from meeting the Sumatran rhino’s fate.

They hoped for more attention to be given to the conservation of pangolins, banteng, the Bornean elephant, clouded leopard and sun bear whose numbers have dwindled over the years due to poaching and wildlife conflict.

End of the road: Conservationists say there is no hope left for ailing Sumatran rhino Tam and the last surviving female Iman (above).

With the last surviving male rhino Tam nearing death, the conservationists say it is pointless to continue the breeding programme for the species, which has not been seen in the wild for nearly a decade.

“Sabah wildlife authorities should accept the fact that the rhino conservation has been a failure and move on.

“Investing more funds and resources into rhino breeding will be a waste of funds,” said a senior conservationist, who declined to be named.

Agreeing that it is an emotional issue for everyone who has worked on the rhino’s survival since 1980, the conservationist explained that the ailing Tam and the last surviving female rhino Iman are too old or have reproductive issues.

“Indonesia does not need our rhinos for their Sumatran rhino breeding programme as they have adequate male and female rhinos in captivity.

“Though small in number, Indonesia has a wild Sumatran population of 50 which they can use for their captive breeding programme,” said one of the conservationists.

He pointed out that the rhinos in Indonesia had relatively better reproductive health than those in Sabah, having bred through conventional breeding methods at least three or four times.

“Sabah rhinos are old and have severe medical and reproductive pathology, reducing their breeding capacity for either conventional or even via Advanced Reproductive Techniques,” said the conserva­tionist.

Earlier last week, Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said Tam, which is believed to be in its mid-30s, was under palliative care and suffering from liver and kidney damage.

The Sabah government, however, is not giving up, with Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew hoping to pursue collaboration with Indonesia on a trip there soon.

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