Malaysia: Sabah still trying to get Indonesia's help on rhino breeding programme

AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 7 Jan 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Talks are underway to get the Indonesian government on board in initiating a breeding programme for rhinoceros to ensure their survival, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said today.

He said the state government has been working on the matter for some time but so far, both parties have yet to come to an agreement.

“We (state government) have always been talking to them (Indonesian government). I think what is needed actually is to get things done. But so far, we have not succeeded.

“There are matters that needed to be considered, which we probably have not met but suffice to say talks are always ongoing,” he said when met at the opening of Camaca Gelato Concept CafĂ© here, today.

Sabah is currently facing extinction of Sumatran rhinoceros species with only two known individuals – a female nicknamed Iman and male nicknamed Kertam - currently surviving at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu.

In Dec last year, Iman, the country’s last female Sumatran rhinoceros, was diagnosed with tumour in her uterus.

Although, Iman’s condition was improving on Dec 25, the rhino still suffers from vaginal discharge.

“There have been a lot of suggestion and theories to treat Iman but none succeeded. We have got in touch with some of the best experts in the treatment of rhino but sad to say we have yet to find cure.

“Iman is the only female left and to me, that is even more difficult. We have to think twice before engaging treatments, which have not been proven yet,” said Masidi.

Iman was the last wild rhino found in Malaysia. She was captured in Danum Valley and transported to Tabin Wildlife in Lahad Datu in March 2014.

Despite being diagnosed with severe fibroids in the uterus, she still produced eggs for the in-vitro fertilisation attempts.

The country lost another female rhino, Puntung, last year. Puntung was euthanised on June 4 after suffering three months from skin cancer.

Meanwhile, on the effort to upgrade pangolin status to a totally protected species, Masidi said works on the legal aspect are still ongoing.

“For me, I want it to be done immediately but Sabah Wildlife Department needs some time to prepare the necessary laws and whatever required for the proposal to upgrade (pangolin status),” he said.

Currently, pangolin is protected under Part 1 Schedule 2 of Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment, which allows hunting with permits.