Indonesia: Sumatran rhino dies weeks after landmark discovery

AFP Yahoo News 5 Apr 16;

A critically endangered Sumatran rhino has died weeks after its chance discovery on the Indonesian part of Borneo island was hailed as a landmark conservation success, an official said Tuesday.

The rare rhino was caught in a pit trap last month in East Kalimantan province in an area close to mining operations and plantations, where it was struggling to survive.

It was the first physical contact environmentalists had made with a Sumatran rhino on Indonesian Borneo in more than 40 years, after it was assumed the animal was long extinct.

However Najaq, as the female rhino was known, succumbed to a leg infection after her health deteriorated in recent days, Indonesia's environment ministry confirmed.

"The death of this Sumatran rhino proves they exist on Borneo, so we will continue protecting them," Tachrir Fathoni, a senior official at the environment ministry, told AFP.

A post-mortem examination is being conducted to determine the official cause of death, he added.

Environmentalists discovered in 2013 that the Sumatran rhino was not extinct on Indonesian Borneo -- as had long been thought -- when hidden cameras captured images of the animals.

Conservationists had heralded the capture of the rhino in March as an exciting discovery, and expressed disappointment at the tragic turn of events.

"This is a very valuable lesson that shows saving a rhino can be very difficult, and needs the support of experts," said WWF Indonesia head Efransjah, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

There were once Sumatran rhinos all over Borneo but their numbers have dwindled dramatically, with poaching and the expansion of mining and plantation operations considered the main reasons for the decline.

The Sumatran rhino is the only Asian rhino with two horns, and are covered with long hair. It's estimated there are less than 100 left in the wild.

Critically endangered Sumatran rhino dies weeks after discovery 6 Apr 16;

A critically endangered Sumatran rhino found was found dead on Tuesday in West Kutai, East Kalimantan, just weeks after its existence was discovered in March.

The death of the 10-year-old female rhino, called Najaq, is suspected to be due to septicemia caused by a leg wound that turned septic after the rhino was caught in a snare in September 2015, said a team of veterinarians from the Forestry and Environment Ministry, World Wild Fund (WWF) Indonesia, Taman Safari Indonesia, the Indonesian Rhino Foundation (YBI) and the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB).

The team suspected that shreds of the nylon snare had remained in Najaq’s leg, causing an infection, according to a press statement.

A postmortem examination may be conducted to determine the exact cause of death.

Najaq was first caught on camera in late October 2015 with her left leg entangled in a snare. The team searched for and captured Najaq on March 12 and removed the snare from her leg and treated her with antibiotics and vitamins, the statement said.

The team also consulted international rhino experts from Australia Zoo, Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, and US-based Cornell University.

As Najaq’s condition started to improve, so too did her appetite, team member Muhamamd Agil said. However, the infection on her leg worsened and her health deteriorated until she died early Tuesday morning.

"She responded positively to the treatment given by the team of doctors. But her wound was severe and became infected," Agil said on Tuesday.

The director general of natural resources and ecosystem conservation at the Environment Ministry, Tachrir Fathoni, said Najaq's death was a lesson learned in the protection of rhino populations in West Kutai.

"Najaq's death shows that Sumatran rhinos still exist in Kalimantan, whereas we thought it there were none left here," he said.

Another lesson learned was the need to be extra careful in managing the conservation of Sumatran rhinos, which have unique behaviors, YABI executive director Widodo Ramono said.

West Kutai Regent Ismail Thomas expressed concern over Najaq's death and vowed to facilitate programs to protect rhinos in the area.

WWF Indonesia survey team first identified Najaq from footprints found in West Kutai in 2013. A camera trap confirmed her existence by capturing footage of her wallowing in mud in mid-2013. Previously, the team of researchers assumed Najaq to be 5 years old from her body measurement.

However, a dental check confirmed that Najaq was 10 years old.

The Sumatran rhino is one of two rhino species in the archipelago. Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered, with a population of less than 100, mostly on mainland Sumatra. (rin)

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