Sabah seeks German expertise in rhino captive breeding

17 Aug 2019 / 15:46 H.

KUNDASANG: Sabah is seeking a German expert for a Rhino captive breeding programme to be jointly undertaken with Indonesia, said state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew.

She said this was among the input provided by Wildlife Adviser to the Minister, Datuk Dr John Payne, Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga and WWF-Malaysia Conservation director Henry Chan.

“A captive breeding programme is to prevent extinction of the species in Sabah, given that Iman kept at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Lahad Datu, is Malaysia’s sole surviving female rhino at the moment,” she said when met by reporters after the launch of Kinotoki and Mokodou Panalaban Hostel here today.

The programme is expected to include in vitro fertilisation (IVF) by extracting an egg from Iman and getting it fertilised in a specialist lab using sperm from one of Indonesia’s captive male rhinos, before implanting the embryo (fertilised egg) in the womb of a surrogate female rhino.

Christina, who is also Sabah deputy chief minister, said the governments of Indonesia and Sabah-Malaysia have agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Conservation of the Sumatran rhinoceros in Indonesia next month.

The agreement was reached at a meeting between Christina and director-general Wiratno of the Directorate General of Natural Resources and Ecosystem Conservation under the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in Indonesia early this month.

Liew said both expressed their commitment to conserving the Sumatran rhinoceros and agreed that political will is crucial to the signing of the MoU, recognising that the rhino is one of the world’s most endangered species.

Iman remains Malaysia’s sole surviving female Sumatran rhino following the death of Malaysia’s sole surviving male Sumatran rhino, Tam, on May 29 this year due to old age and multiple organ failure stemming from kidney and liver damage.

Iman, who was captured in 2014, has been kept at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary since then. However, Iman has been diagnosed as having cysts and fibroids in her womb rendering her infertile.

Tam, aged between 30 and 35 years, was captured near an oil palm plantation in 2008 and translocated to the sanctuary in Tabin. Attempts were made to mate Tam with Puntung (a female rhino captured in 2011) and Iman under a captive breeding programme but these failed to produce viable pregnancies.

Puntung, then 25 years old, was reported to have reproductive problems with cysts in the lining of her womb. She was euthanised after her battle against skin cancer in June 2017. — Bernama

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