Sumatran Rhino now extinct in Malaysia

Sumatran Rhinos Tam and Puntung, pictured here at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary, are among the last surviving specimens of their species in the country.
PHOTO: The Star/ANN

PETALING JAYA - The Sumatran rhino is now extinct from Malaysia's jungles, a group of scientists has found.

In a report under the international-based journal Oryx, they wrote that other than two rhinos caught in 2011 and 2014, there had been no more signs of the animal in the wild here - even after years of searching.

"As of June 2015, no further signs of the species have been found in Sabah, and it is safe to consider the species extinct in the wild in Malaysia," the report, co-authored by 11 experts worldwide read.

There are only three Sumatran rhinos in captivity in Malaysia, all in the state of Sabah. The last sighting of the rhino in the Peninsular was in 2007.

Less than 100 animals exist in Indonesia's Kalimantan and Sumatra.

Borneo Rhino Alliance head Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne told The Star that the Sumatran rhino was doomed by a lack of breeding and that it was hunted by poachers.

He said every rhino still living today had to be closely managed, with a combined effort of regional nations.

"We should certainly be thinking of boosting Sumatran rhino numbers through a single programme that is not based on nationalistic thinking," he said.

Dr Payne, who is one of the report's 11 co-authors, is currently working with the Sabah government to make the state's female rhinos pregnant artificially.

He had previously implied that if no rhino embryos could be made by mid-2017, it might become extinct here.

The Sumatran rhino is Malaysia's last surviving rhino species. Its cousin, the Javan rhino, went extinct here after the last of its kind in Malaya was shot in 1932.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry could not be reached for comment.

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