Preliminary rhino survey results show urgent need to address continuing decline of rhinos in Malaysia
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia – WWF-Malaysia, in partnership with the Perak State Park Corporation, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN), and Honda Malaysia conducted a rhino survey in the Royal Belum Forest Reserve from 7 to 17 July 2007.
Based on preliminary data, the survey team surmises that the number of Sumatran rhinos in the park may be very small, if any remain there at all, and limited to only a few areas that have not been encroached upon by humans.
“Rhinoceros are solitary species and highly sensitive to human disturbance. Being nearly extinct, their very low densities and propensity to hide in very remote areas in the forest make for an extremely challenging task to find them” says Ahmad Zafir, WWF-Malaysia Scientific Officer for the Rhino Conservation Project.
While a final estimate on rhino numbers is awaiting a fuller analysis of the data collected, one thing that the survey has definitively shown is that human encroachment is heavy and, whilst signs of actual poaching were not readily found, it is likely that there is an equally high incidence of hunting. Proof of human disturbance such as animal traps, bullet cartridges, and abandoned campsites were found all throughout the surveyed areas. Evidence of illegal extraction of agarwood (gaharu) was also abundant in these areas.
Dr. Dionysius Sharma, WWF-Malaysia Executive Director / CEO says that “the next step for the team is to now focus on more specific areas within and adjacent to Belum and analyse pertinent data from this survey to draw more conclusive results, which may take up to one year. More time on the ground is needed to carefully assess the ecology and determine the presence of rhinos.” He adds that “concerted efforts must be made to address human encroachment and poaching issues in Royal Belum. These preliminary survey results emphasise the urgent need to conduct a comprehensive wildlife trade assessment as well as strengthen enforcement capacities in the area to prevent illegal hunting and extraction of wildlife.”
Mr. Atsushi Fujimoto, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd commented, “We at Honda Malaysia are glad that the survey has managed to narrow down the areas of urgent need in the conservation efforts. We are now able to move on to the next step in helping to save the Sumatran rhino. It is indeed a challenging project but we are hopeful and we will continue to give our support and commitment in this project.”
The survey also showed the presence of other species such as tiger, elephant, gaur, sun bear, tapir, gibbon, hornbills and other wildlife. WWF-Malaysia calls for all relevant authorities including PERHILITAN, the Forestry Department and the armed forces to work together to eliminate poaching activities and ensure better wildlife protection.
NOTES TO EDITOR
About WWF-Malaysia's 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 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.
WWF-Malaysia, the national conservation trust, currently runs about 75 projects covering a diverse range of environmental protection and nature conservation work. Since 1972, WWF-Malaysia has worked on important conservation projects, from saving endangered species such as tigers and turtles, to protecting our highland forests, rivers and seas.
WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by:
• Conserving the world’s biological diversity
• Ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is suitable
• Promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption
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