Puntung’s euthanasia a wake-up call for Sumatran rhinoceros conservation | WWF Malaysia

Puntung’s euthanasia a wake-up call for Sumatran rhinoceros conservation

Posted on 29 May 2017
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Kota Kinabalu: As one of Malaysia’s three remaining Sumatran rhinoceroses, Puntung’s impending euthanasia due to terminal skin cancer is a massive blow to her species ('Rhino Puntung to be euthanized after diagnosed with skin cancer', The Malay Mail, 28 May 2017). For Malaysia, losing Puntung means that we will be left with only one female Sumatran rhinoceros, Iman (the other rhinoceros is a male called Kretam).

While the species has been declared as extinct in the wild for Malaysia, experts have estimated that the current population in Indonesia (the only other range country for Sumatran rhinoceros) is likely to be less than 100 individuals scattered in small, isolated groups in Sumatra and Kalimantan. The population is so thinly spread that breeding is believed to be minimal, which means that this species could go extinct within the ten years, if not sooner. If we want to reverse this trend, then the focus of Sumatran rhinoceros conservation should be on rescuing all remaining wild individuals for management in excellent fenced facilities, increasing the number of births, and facilitating the movement of the individuals and gametes among facilities as a population management tool. In summary there should be a single programme with the sole goal of making baby Sumatran rhinos.

WWF-Malaysia believes that the application of advanced reproductive technology (ART), as advocated by Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) and being attempted with renowned international reproductive scientists, remains the best bet to ensure that the species will be saved.

Additionally, the WWF Network Executive Team (NET) has mandated the creation of a Sumatran rhino working group, comprising of representatives from WWF-Indonesia and partner offices (including WWF-US, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar) with the view of pushing the Sumatran rhino conservation to the top of the agenda for the relevant governments, and to seek a common approach and agreements among all NGOs working on Sumatran rhino conservation.

We therefore call upon the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia, and all Sumatran rhinoceros conservation organizations, to work together as a dedicated team. Let Puntung’s passing be the final wake-up call we desperately need for an international collaboration to finally take place. Together, anything is possible.

Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma
Executive Director/CEO WWF-Malaysia

- Ends -

For more information, please contact

Sabrina Aripen
Communications Officer, Sabah Office, WWF-Malaysia
Tel: +6088 262420 Ext.125
E-mail: saripen@wwf.org.my
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