Images of Rhino believed to be pregnant, captured in Borneo.
Dr. Laurentius Ambu, the Director of Sabah Wildlife Department, highlights the importance of strong and co-ordinated enforcement in the forest and wildlife reserves by the relevant government agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs) in order to ensure the survival of this species in Borneo’s forests. Presently, WWF-Malaysia is working closely with Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Wildlife Department and Sabah Foundation, with the support from the Royal Malaysian Police, to ensure the safety and survival of this endangered species in Borneo. Dr. Laurentius mentioned that consistent monitoring of the rhino population here has been productive so far, as two rhino calves has been identified in this part of regions. Sabah Wildlife Department is currently working closely with WWF-Malaysia and Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) to finalise the Rhino Action Plan which will be expected to be ready for full implementation by August 2010. The “Rhino Action Plan” will address the conservation plans of the viable population including isolated rhinos. He emphasises that his department will have a different approach in managing the viable and isolated rhino population in Sabah. Habitat protection and enforcement has been recognised as the main strategy in order to ensure the survival of the viable rhino population in forest reserves, whilst rhino breeding programme has been identified as the key strategy in order to address the conservation plan for the isolated rhinos. The rhino breeding programme is currently supported by Sime Darby, the Malaysian federal government and WWF-Malaysia.
“The future of rhinos in Borneo now depends on how seriously the enforcement and security work in the forest reserves can be implemented and coordinated,” said Raymond Alfred, Head of the Borneo Species Programme, WWF-Malaysia. The monitoring and survey work in the central forest of Sabah is currently supported by HONDA Malaysia, WWF-Netherlands, WWF-Germany and USFWS since 2005. WWF-Malaysia is joining forces with Sabah Wildlife Department and Sabah Forestry Department to look into reinforcing the security of the forest reserves where rhino inhabits.
Alfred mentioned that the data gathered from a continuing rhino monitoring and survey programme in this part of region shows that: (i) the home range of the rhinos is affected by oil palm expansion near the coastline, (ii) sustainable logging activities have minimal impact on the rhino population, and (iii) forest conversion of the natural forests, especially those located adjacent to key habitat for the rhino, into other mono-plantation (particularly oil palm) would further worsen the fragmentation of the rhino population. WWF-Malaysia believes that full espousal and co-operation from the relevant land developers and forest managers, to restore the corridor and also address illegal encroachment would help support the survival of rhinos in Sabah.