A foundation and a sanctuary have come together and, like anxious parents, are hoping for the patter of little feet someday — so that the Sumatran rhino can be saved from extinction.
IT is 10 in the morning and Tam is as restless as a child wanting to get out and play. Wilson Kuntil, his keeper, patiently coaxes him to settle down. The 20-year-old rhino paces the floor of his paddock and keeps knocking at the metal gate with the stub of his horn.
Though Wilson has been working at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary for less than a year, he’s already become attached to Tam (short for Kertam) and two other rhinos, females named Puntung and Gelogob. These Sumatran rhinos were captured and translocated to the sanctuary in the hopes of breeding them.
Since the 1980s, efforts to conserve the Sumatran rhinoceros have been an uphill task in this region. Scientists estimate there are only 200 of these rhinos left in the wild with a meagre population of less than 40 in central and east Sabah.
In 2009, the Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora) began work on curbing the rapid extinction of these animals with the set up of the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary within the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, near Lahad Datu in eastern Sabah. The sanctuary now houses these three Sumatran rhinos that were rescued over the past three years, with the latest, Puntung, in December last year.
It is with the help of private funders like Yayasan Sime Darby, which has provided RM5mil over the last three years, that conservation work at the sanctuary has been able to move forward. Bora’s executive director, Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne, says funding was recently extended for another three years with the foundation pledging RM6.4mil more.
Labels: Borneo Rhino, Lahad Datu, Sabah Wildlife, Sumatran rhinoceros, Tabin Wildlife Reserve