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Environmentalists capture endangered Sumatran rhino in Borneo KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian environmentalists on Monday announced the capture of a female Sumatran rhino which is on the brink of extinction, giving rise to a last chance to save the species before it is too late.

The healthy rhino was captured in the Malaysian town of Lahad Datu on December 18 and transported across the 122,000 hectares (301,500 acre) Tabin Wildlife Reserve on Saturday. Borneo, the world's third largest island, is located off the Indonesian island of Java and is divided among Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The female rhino, which has been given the name Puntung, had been followed by environmentalists since 2007 and is believed to have never come across another Sumatran rhino in that period. She has now been brought to the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary where she will be put together with a middle-aged male rhino named Tam, who was rescued from an oil palm plantation in August 2008.

But it remains uncertain whether environmentalists will be successful in getting the rhinos to breed as previous attempts in the 1980s and 1990s failed. A Sumatran rhino born in September 2001 at the Cincinnati Zoo in the United States was the first of the species to be bred and born in captivity in at least 112 years.

Experts believe the population of the Sumatran rhino, which is one of the three species of rhinos in Asia and the only one with two horns, is less than 275. Most of the Sumatran rhinos live in Indonesia, where between 180 and 200 are estimated to be alive in the wild. Of those, 120 are in the province of Lampung alone.

Monday's news comes less than a month after Indonesian environmentalists warned that the Sumatran rhinoceros in Lampung province is on the brink of extinction due to hunting and habitat destruction in the region.

Indonesian Rhino Foundation chairman Widodo Ramono said the rhino population is now about 30 in Way Kambas National Park in Lampung province and 80 in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park. He noted that their low reproduction rates are being further affected by climate change and the human impact on their environment.

During the last 15 years, the Sumatran rhino population has declined by 50 percent, making it one of the most endangered rhino species in the world. The species is found from northeastern India through Southeast Asia in Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Malaysia and the Indonesian Islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

In late November, at a biological natural resource and ecosystem conservation meeting in Bandar Lampung, the capital of Lampung, Widodo noted that only humans can prevent the Sumatran rhinoceros from becoming extinct as much of its threats come from poaching activities, hunting them for their horns and organs used in traditional medicinal practices, as well as poorly enforced protections laws.

Currently, killing a rhino in Indonesia carries a maximum sentence of just one year in prison and a Rp 300,000 ($33) fine. Widodo said that these maximum sentences are too weak and stressed the importance of revising animal protection laws in order to fight the rhinos' extinction.

Also in November, the International Union for the Conservative of Nature (IUCN) declared Africa's Western Black Rhinoceros to be extinct. The rhino subspecies was once widespread in central-west Africa, but the Western Black Rhinoceros became heavily hunted in the beginning of the 20th century.

Although preservation actions in the 1930s allowed the species to partially recover, protection efforts later declined. By 2000, only about a dozen Western Black Rhinoceros were thought to be alive, and a survey in 2006 found none to be alive. No sightings of the animal have been reported since, and none were held in captivity.

According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), 330 rhinos have been killed this year alone, poached for their horns which are popular in medicine markets across South East Asia. Demand for the horn is at an all time high, with prices reaching more than $50,000 per kilogram (2.2 pounds).

In October, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Rhino Foundation confirmed that Javan rhinoceros have also been driven to complete extinction in Vietnam. With the complete extinction in Vietnam, only one small group remains in the wild: the 40 to 50 Javan rhinos in Ujung Kulon in Indonesia.

Related blog entries (category 'Environment') Related blog entries (category 'Environment'):
24 November 2011 · Environmentalists: 'Sumatran rhino on the brink of extinction'
22 November 2011 · Two men arrested for killing dozens of orangutans
27 October 2011 · Greenpeace accused of illegal activities
25 October 2011 · Javan rhinos in Vietnam extinct; few left in Indonesia
04 October 2011 · Indonesia pays $28.5 million debt through forest protection
30 September 2011 · Greenpeace: 'Only 400 Sumatran tigers remain'

Related blog entries (category 'Environment') Tags: Sumatran, rhino, found, Kalimantan

Posted in Environment @ 26 December 2011 13:26 CET by Blog Bot · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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