WWF-Malaysia, PSPC, PERHILITAN join hands in the first Sumatran rhino survey in Peninsular Malaysia
Launching the auspicious ceremony was D.Y.M.M. Sultan Paduka Seri Sultan Azlan Shah, witnessed by YAB Dato' Seri DiRaja Mohamad Tajol Rosli bin Ghazali, Perak Chief Minister, and Abd. Rasid bin Samsudin, Director-General of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN).
The collaborative effort, aptly titled Sumatran Rhino Survey Expedition 2007, is the first joint initiative ever undertaken by a non-profit environmental organisation and a government agency to conduct a comprehensive study on the population of Sumatran rhinos in Peninsular Malaysia.
“WWF-Malaysia would like to thank the Perak State Government and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) for supporting this expedition, and we hope it remains vigorous in its efforts to preserve our natural heritage,” said Dr. Dionysius S.K. Sharma, Executive Director/CEO of WWF-Malaysia.
Conducted under WWF-Malaysia-Honda Malaysia’s Rhino Rescue Project, the expedition involved at least 70-80 wildlife experts from various national and international organisations, including PSPC, WWF-Indonesia, SOS Rhino, government departments/agencies, international rhino conservation organisations and NGOs.
The survey expedition was first mooted as part of the developmental plan of the Rhino Rescue Project with the objective of estimating the minimum number and distribution of Sumatran rhinos within the Royal Belum State Park. It also aims to explore the possibility of developing a long-term monitoring programme for rhino presence as well as looking for signs of poaching, encroachment and other illegal human activities, which have largely contributed to the rapid decline of the rhinos.
“The expedition will really help the project team to develop a broader approach to the current rhino conservation activities conducted here at Royal Belum,” added Dr. Sharma. “The species is suffering from significant population decline, and is under continuous assault for the profitable but cruel trade in their horns. If positive action is taken to protect them against the damaging effects of commercial trade and habitat loss, we may succeed in preventing the extinction of yet another species.”
“The survey will divide the participants to seven groups of 5-10 members, deployed to seven different areas in the Royal Belum State Park to gather ecological and biological data on the Sumatran rhinos,” explained Ahmad Zafir Abdul Wahab, Programme Officer of the Rhino Rescue Project.
“This includes searching for rhino footprints, droppings, feeding signs, as well as mud wallows, which are strong indicators of the presence of rhinos. The data generated will enable the team to estimate the minimum number of rhinos remaining in the park, and to determine the range of habitats in which the rhinos occur.”
“Given the recent gazettement of the Royal Belum State Park, the expedition could not have been any more timely,” Dr. Sharma continued. “We are certain that such positive achievement will further enhance our conservation activities in the area. This excellent news means that the park has been given an official legal status, which will result in better protection activities for the rhinos.”
For media enquiries, kindly contact:
Ms. Shirley Lau, Senior Account/Communications Officer, Rhino Conservation Programme (Peninsular & East Malaysia), WWF-Malaysia
Tel: +603 7803 3772 ext 6425
Fax: +603 7803 5157
Ms. Eza Dzul Karnain, Media & Public Affairs Co-ordinator, WWF-Malaysia
Tel: +603 7803 3772 ext 6103
Fax: +603 7803 5157
NOTES TO EDITOR
What’s left of the Sumatran rhinos?
Today, the Sumatran rhinos have declined drastically to less than 300 individuals in the wild and are now only found in Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. They are close to extinction, mainly due to poaching for their horns and other body parts, used in traditional chinese medicine, and loss of their forest habitats due to agriculture and indiscriminate logging.
Poaching of the Sumatran rhino has become a pressing issue. Although all trade of rhino parts is prohibited internationally, the black market for them continues to flourish, leading to an artificial increase in their value. This has further motivated poachers to hunt them illegally, thus driving this critically endangered species to the brink of extinction.
About the Rhino Rescue Project
The Rhino Rescue Project is a five year collaboration between WWF-Malaysia and Honda Malaysia to raise efforts in protecting the near-extinct Sumatran rhino in Royal Belum, Perak and Heart of Borneo, Sabah. WWF-Malaysia works closely with its main partners (Perak State Parks Corporation (PSPC) and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Malaysia (PERHILITAN) and, through its sister project in Sabah, the Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department, and Sabah Foundation) to further strengthen Sumatran rhino conservation in Malaysia.
All conservation activities are designed to address the main concerns of the project: increasing efforts to maintain and protect the rhino’s habitat, supporting relevant bodies in their efforts to eradicate poaching, ensuring maximum outreach to local communities on the need to save rhinos, and increasing research efforts to better understand the ecological and spatial needs of the rhinos.
About Honda’s Involvement in Rhino Rescue Project
Honda Malaysia together with WWF-Malaysia has initiated and committed to a five year project to save the Sumatran rhinoceros, the nation’s most endangered animal. Honda Malaysia has pledged a contribution of RM5 million to WWF-Malaysia to enable WWF-Malaysia to further strengthen the Sumatran rhinoceros conservation efforts. The project also aims to raise awareness and educate the future generation and Malaysian public on environmental and conservation issues through various activities.