Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sumatran rhinos living on borrowed time in Sabah

Malaysia has three years left to ensure its Sumatran rhino does not become extinct.

A recent survey showed no new sightings of the mammal in the wild. The country received further devastating news that its three Sumatran rhinos in captivity were not fit enough to breed and produce offspring.

Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora) executive director Datuk Dr Junaidy Payne is not blaming the possible extinction entirely on poaching, loss of habitat or the lack of commitment, but believes the reasoning was also mainly due to core problems which many refused to admit.

He said one was the “Allee effect’ which is a feature of small populations whereby low density limits population growth, leading to a death rate which is higher than the birth rate.

Secondly, Junaidy blamed the almost non-existent global leadership on the matter.

He said the International Union Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global body entrusted to find pragmatic solutions to the most pressing environment and development challenges, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) had not done enough to ensure the Sumatran rhino population in Malaysia, and Sabah in particular, was not affected.

“Now we are left with three Sumatran rhinos, two females and a male, currently in captivity.

“The Sabah and federal governments could have kept this problem quiet, but we choose to make it public that we are losing our Sumatran rhino, especially in the wild.

“Indonesia still has 15, but then again, that’s based on educated guesses. We do not know the exact number.

“These numbers are not many and it’s important for us to act fast and ensure their survival. Otherwise, quoting Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, ‘we are facing the prospect of our Sumatran rhinos going extinct in our lifetime’,” said Junaidy when met at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Putatan.

He also disclosed that decisions made were not based on facts as many chose to believe that there were still Sumatran rhinos in the wild.

“Today, some are saying there are eight to 10 Sumatran rhinos in the Malaysian wild, but that is only an assumption.

“In reality, we have not seen any new sightings of the mammal in the wild. We only found two five years ago, and then nothing despite all the hard work of setting up cameras in the jungle.”