THE recent death of the nation’s five captive rhinoceros is most tragic. It is even more tragic to know these deaths could have been avoided.
There is no need to point fingers at anyone now. Nothing can bring these critically endangered rhinoceros back to life.
Most importantly, this tragedy must serve as a lesson to all of us.
While captive breeding programmes are intended to boost the survival rate of endangered animals, there should also be caution in exercising them.
It takes no expert to realise captive breeding programmes cannot work well for all animals. This has been proven so right, unfortunately, for our already vanishing rhinoceros.
In the case of our rhinoceros – Seputeh, Minah, Mas Merah, Ara, Shah and Rima – a pertinent question should be raised. Why do these programmes continue despite past records showing rhinoceros cannot survive well in captivity and that the captive productivity rate is nearly nil?
Does this not then defeat the entire idea of wildlife conservation?
It is even more upsetting to learn that the Science, Technology and Environment Ministry has agreed to continue the breeding programme.
How many more rhinos must die in captivity before we realise it is all too late?
Currently, there are fewer than 300 rhinoceros left in Malaysia and Indonesia.
I fear the breeding programme will spell doom, instead of hope, for the rhinoceros population.
I would like to point out that the funds and manpower can be better channelled towards more effective conservation tools, such as increased Forest Patrol Units to combat or curb illegal poaching, increased protection of these critically endangered animals and public education and awareness programmes.
And let the deaths of our rhinoceros not be in vain. There are important lessons to learn and much pondering to do, if ever we want to give our rhinoceros the chance to live.
Shah Alam, Selangor