Rhino Sanctuary In Sabah receives backing
The East Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island teems with wildlife. Flora and fauna species in its primary rain forests arguably are more diverse than even those found in the Amazon jungles. Pygmy elephants, rhinos, bearded wild boar and proboscis monkeys, to name a few are found here and nowhere else.
However, the replacement of vast tracts of its forests with oil palm and human activities continue to threaten the survival of endangered species.
To counter this, Malaysia's best well-known conglomerate, Sime Darby, has decided to work with the Sabah government to set up a sanctuary for rhinos in Tabin, near Lahad Datu in the eastern part of the Malaysian state.
Chairman of the Sime Darby Foundation, Tun Musa Hitam and the State Wildlife Department Director Datuk Lawrentius Ambu yesterday signed an agreement of cooperation.
The Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun witnessed the signing.
"We are providing RM7.3 million including RM5 million for the infrastructure in 4,500-hectare area to keep all sumatran rhinos found," Musa said.
He said the plan to create the sanctuary was part of Sime Darby's "Big 9" campaign to protect nine endangered wild animals, namely sun bear, orang utan, pygmy elephant, bornean clouded leopard, sumatran rhino, malayan tiger, monyet belanda (long-nosed monkey), hornbill and banteng (species of wild cattle).
Masidi said that project would hopefully help sumatran rhino to breed since there was a fear that it would become extinct if no effective action was taken.
Besides preserving wildlife species, it is hoped that the life of poor villagers staying near the proposed sanctuary will change for the better.
But, too often, they are ignored. This writer has received the hospitality of these people. He thinks their voice must be heard.
In another development, the WWF has renewed calls for preservation of endangered species.
"The future of rhinos in Borneo now depends on how seriously the forest reserves can be managed sustainably," Raymond Alfred, senior manager of WWF-Malaysia's Borneo Species Programme said in a statement.
Alfred's comments came after his team captured a rare image of the near-extinct animal, a female believed to be about 20 years old.
WWF said that the image, along with the identification of two rhino calves, added weight to the need to manage the species' forest home sustainably.
Alfred urged forestry and wildlife authorities in Sabah, and the police, to adopt "strong and co-ordinated enforcement to ensure the survival" of the species.
WWF said the rhinos' range was being affected by the expansion of oil palm plantations, and called for action to protect its habitat from fragmentation.
The Borneo sub-species is the rarest of all rhinos, distinguished from other Sumatran rhinos by its relatively small size, small teeth and distinctively shaped head.
Malaysian wildlife officials say only about 30 animals remain in Sabah.