Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rhino romance may be last hope

Puntung is a Sumatran rhino, one of roughly 200 left in the world.

Captured in a Borneo forest on Christmas Day, she is the latest addition to Malaysia's Borneo Rhino Sanctuary - and possibly one of the last hopes for a species on the brink of extinction.

Veterinarians want to introduce Puntung to Tam, a 20-year-old male Sumatran rhinoceros in the enclosure next door, in the hopes that they will breed - although this cannot take place for a number of months, until Puntung is deemed ready.

Estimated to be 10 to 12 years old, she was airlifted to the sanctuary after her capture and has since been adjusting to her new home, eating more than 60 kilograms of leaves each day.

"She doesn't look stressed, she's eating well . but the stress [of a new environment] is enough to offset her cycle, her normal cycle," said Zainal Zahari Zainuddin, a veterinarian with the Borneo Rhino Alliance.

Captive breeding is now regarded as the only way to boost the population of the two-horned Sumatran rhino, which at 500 to 600 kg and 1.3 metres tall is the world's smallest rhinoceros.

Deforestation and illegal hunting have decimated the population in the wild, and habitat fragmentation has cut the surviving animals off from potential mates. The animals are aging to the point where they are too old to breed.

But even the capture of Puntung, dubbed a "Christmas miracle" by scientists, does not mean success is assured.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Rhino romance may be last hope

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