KOTA KINABALU: The death of Iman, Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhino, is a desperate wake-up call to all, says World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia.
“It signifies the complete loss of the Sumatran rhino in the country and the hope of ever seeing this species in the wild is forever gone, ” said WWF-Malaysia chief executive officer Sophia Lim.
The focus now, she said, was to help other endangered species thrive and to eliminate threats to wildlife.
“There must be better policies and stronger legislation on wildlife conservation, ” she said.
Iman, which was captured in 2014, died on Saturday at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary.
Estimated to be about 25 years old, Iman had been ailing and losing weight with tumours growing inside her body.
Lim said WWF would continue working with various government agencies to coordinate implementation efforts on the ground that would hopefully curb the loss of more wildlife.
Some of the biggest threats to wildlife include poaching and the illegal wildlife trade where species like tigers, banteng, pangolins, sun bears and elephants face daily risks.
“While we must collectively address the threat of poaching, we must also work on saving the natural habitats that harbour our wildlife species, ” she said.
“The remaining forests should be retained either as protected areas for wildlife sanctuaries or forest reserves where harvesting of timber is done in a refined and sustainable manner that allows wildlife to co-exist.
“Ultimately, ensuring the survival of wildlife is a responsibility that is shared by all.”
Lim said the involvement of the police in collaboration with other agencies to patrol forests, investigate and make arrest with intelligence provided by wildlife and environment-related departments had led to some success in poachers getting arrested and wildlife meat seized.
“But this is still the tip of the iceberg of an illegal economy worth billions of dollars, ” she added.
Over the years, she said WWF-Malaysia had worked together with the government and other organisations to help stop the extinction of the Sumatran rhinoceros in Sabah.
They had set up camera traps, which led to the detection of the male rhinoceros Tam in 2009 and then Iman, a female, in 2014.
In a last bid to save the Sumatran rhino, the Sabah government, WWF-Malaysia and the Borneo Rhino Alliance met with Indonesian officials to outline details in a much-needed collaboration between Malaysia and Indonesia in rhino conservation.As Malaysian forests were fragmented, Lim said wildlife corridors should be established to enable breeding among different population groups to maintain a healthy gene pool and prevent inbreeding.
Meanwhile, Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said Iman’s death was a very sad story.
He reiterated the state government’s plans to designate a site for a wildlife conservation and rehabilitation area much like the African safaris next year.
“It is also another tourism attraction as we can no longer depend only on our islands and mountains; we need to diversify our products to ensure sustainability, ” he added.