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Hope as rescued rhino joins mates
Published on: Sunday, March 23, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: A rare Sumatran rhino was successfully translocated on Friday from a very remote area in Danum Valley, to join two rhinos, a male and a female (Tam and Puntung) at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary (BRS) Facility in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

Named Iman, after a small river near where she was caught, her rescue was the result of one year's intensive effort to make every last rhino in Malaysia count towards the prevention of the global extinction of this critically endangered species.

"The State Cabinet agreed in March 2013 that the only way we can ensure every Sumatran rhino in Sabah plays a role in saving the species was to gather all of them in a managed, fenced facility, with the necessary local and global expertise and collaboration to breed them.

"In February this year, the State Cabinet also agreed that we should loan our male, Tam, to Cincinnati Zoo for breeding as part of that collaboration. If Iman proves to be fertile, there might be no necessity for Tam to mate with a 'foreign bride' in Cincinnati.

"In fact the approval to send him to the US in the first place was conditional upon our failure to catch a fertile young female rhino at Danum within a reasonable time for the purpose," Minister of Culture, Tourism and Environment Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun said in a statement here Saturday.

Masidi hoped that with the continued support and expertise on rhino reproductive biology from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife based in Berlin, Germany, a baby rhino could be produced very soon.

Sime Darby Foundation's Chairman, Tun Musa Hitam, who expressed jubilation over Iman's rescue and successful translocation said, "I would like to thank and congratulate everyone involved.

All the hard work has paid off and we have another opportunity to help save this magnificent species from extinction".

Whereas Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, Director of Sabah Wildlife Department said the Sumatran rhino was on the verge of extinction in Sabah and bringing them into captive conditions maximised the chances to save the species.

"My Department has been working on this with Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) and other partners including WWF Malaysia and Yayasan Sabah.

Once Iman is settled down in Tabin, we will review the potential options on how she can best contribute to her species.

"We hope that this success will act as a boost to international collaboration on the Sumatran rhino, and through BORA try to engage with our counterparts in Indonesia," added Ambu.

He congratulated BORA, WWF Malaysia, Yayasan Sabah, Sabah Forestry Department, his staff and especially the Wildlife Rescue Unit who worked tirelessly on this rescue operation.

Not forgetting Erickson Air-Crane Inc, Ambu said without the use of their huge Sikorsky S-64 Helicopter, this rescue would have been impossible.

He expressed sincere gratitude towards Sime Darby Foundation and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council for funding the rescue operation and the department's Wildlife Rescue Unit, respectively.

"This operation is an excellent example of what serious wildlife conservation work should be about," concluded Ambu.

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