Malaysia: One of last three Sumatran rhinos in Sabah suffering life-threatening infection

Stephanie Lee The Star 5 Apr 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah's hope of keeping Sumatran rhinos alive and well in the state is quickly fading, with one of the last three animals there suffering a life-threatening infection.

Sabah Wildlife Department Director Augustine Tuuga said an abscess was found in the upper jaw of Puntung, a female rhino under the care of the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu.

"The abscess has not responded to drainage and antibiotic treatment and we are now worried about sepsis, an infection that can spread through the body quickly and cause death," he said.

He said they were very concerned as there were signs that the infection had spread.

Tuuga said Sabah was home to three out of last few tens of the critically-endangered Sumatran rhino, with the rest found in Indonesia.

All three Malaysian rhinos are being cared for by the Borneo Rhino Alliance, a non-governmental organisation contracted by Sabah Wildlife Department.

"We are putting all our hopes on Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin to cure Puntung," Tuuga said, adding that the veterinarian had cared and treated the female rhino from day one.

Puntung was captured in 2011 and plans to mate her with Tam, a male Sumatran rhino, were unsuccessful after it was found she had a severe array of cysts lining her uterus which were resistant to treatment and thus made her unable to bear a pregnancy.

"We estimate that Puntung is around 25 years old. Sumatran rhinos have a life expectancy of around 35 years," Borneo Rhino Alliance executive director Datuk John Payne said.

"The loss of Puntung now would be a tragedy, because she potentially has a few years of egg production left," he added.

Sabnah wildlife officials captured another female rhino in 2014, and in vitro fertilisation has been attempted to create rhino embryos.

This was done by Professor Thomas Hildebrandt and his team of specialists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany, Professor Cesare Galli of Avantea laboratories in Italy, and Professor Arief Boediono of Institut Pertanian Bogor.

If successful, embryos could be offered to Indonesia for implantation into surrogate rhino females in Sumatra.


One of last three remaining Sumatran Rhinos in Sabah 'critically ill'
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 5 Apr 17;

KOTA KINABALU: One of the last remaining Sumatran Rhinos in Malaysia is critically ill.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said the rhinoceros, named Puntung, has an abscess inside her upper jaw and not responding to antibiotic treatment.

“It is a grave concern because there are signs that the infection is deep and likely has spread even deeper.

"We are worried about sepsis, an infection complication that can spread quickly through the body and rapidly cause death," he said in a statement, adding that Puntung had been sick since last week.

Sabah is home to only three out of the last few critically-endangered Sumatran rhino. The remaining numbers are in Indonesia.

Puntung, another female rhino Iman and male Kertam are being cared by a non-governmental organisation, Borneo Rhino Alliance, at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu.

Puntung was captured in 2011. It was subsequently established that she was the last remaining wild rhino in the Reserve.

The department had tried to mate Puntung and Kertam in a managed and fenced facility. However, it was later found that Puntung’s uterus was lined with a severe array of cysts which was untreatable.

Since 2014, with the capture of Iman from Danum valley, efforts have been directed towards trying to create rhino embryos through in-vitro fertilisation.

If successful, the fertilised embryos will be inserted into surrogate mother rhinos of the same species in Sumatra.

Borneo Rhino Alliance executive director Datuk John Payne said the life expectancy of the species could reach up to 35 years.

"We estimate that Puntung is around 25 years old. Her loss would be a tragedy because she potentially has quite a few years of egg production left."


Dire straits: Malaysia could lose Puntung, one of its last three Sumatran rhinos
Rescuers have resorted to handfeeding Puntung, one of the last remaining Sumatran rhinoceros, as it has shown no signs of recovery.
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 8 Apr 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Rescuers have resorted to handfeeding Puntung, one of the last remaining Sumatran rhinoceros, as it has shown no signs of recovery.

It was reported on Wednesday that Puntung has an abscess inside her upper jaw and she was not responding to antibiotic treatment.

Sabah Wildlife department director Augustine Tuuga said the mammal has been sick the past week, and spends most of the time wallowing. She has not been eating much in the past few days.

“When Puntung leaves her wallow at night, she will be handfed with some browse, bananas and mangoes in the forest paddock, up to midnight.

“The veterinarian said she was more perky today but only ate 5kg of browse last night,” he said when contacted today, adding that average daily consumption of browse should be around 15kg but in this instance, even 5kg of browse is fine as it will be able to sustain Puntung for about 38 hours.

Puntung, along with another female rhinoceros, Iman, and a male rhino, Kertam, are being cared for by the Borneo Rhino Alliance at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Lahad Datu.

The team had also initially plan to conduct an x-ray scan on Puntung’s wound but this could only be done if she was in her enclosure. As she has taken to spending her time wallowing, the team can only wait.

They had also spotted intermittent bleeding on her left nostril yesterday. Her infection is believed to be deep and could spread further, which might lead to sepsis and eventually death.

Augustine added they have been in constant communication with experts experienced in managing dental and facial damage for rhinos to discuss on the best course of treatment for Puntung.

“Augmentin (a type of antibiotic) treatment and dextrose fluid are still continued besides supplements being added in her food.

“Other types of antibiotic such as Amoxyclav and Enroflaxacin were discussed as an alternative but we are concerned about the lack of studies on the effects of these drugs on rhinos.”

Puntung’s condition is a grave concern for many as she is one of the last rhinos in Malaysia. In Indonesia, only a handful of Sumatran rhinoceros are left.

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