Monday, February 6

Artificial insemination to save Sabah rhinos

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TUARAN: The Federal Government through the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment has contributed RM100,000 for a project to artificially inseminate Sumatran rhinoceros in Sabah.

Its minister, Datuk G Palanivel in announcing this yesterday, said the funding represents his ministry’s support for the project, which could be the last hope for preventing total extinction of the species.

“The Sumatran rhinoceros is the most ancient line species amongst the five living rhinoceros species, now on the brink of extinction. The only hope for the species now lies in bringing in as many individuals as possible into captivity, closely managed facilities, and to use advanced reproductive technologies,” he said.

He handed over the contribution to the Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry, represented by its deputy minister, Datuk Pang Yuk Ming, during the ASEAN Regional Forum Workshop on Combating Wildlife Trafficking at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort here.

Palanivel said the project, if successful, would offer a glimmer of hope in saving the Sumatran Rhinoceros, which researchers believed are surviving only in very small numbers on Sumatra and Borneo.

The ministry, he said, applauded the Sabah State Government and its partners for their tireless effort to conserve this highly valued species.

He also informed that the ministry will present a paper on “Conservation Effort to Impede the Extinction of Sumatran Rhinoceros and Other Endangered Species” in the National Biodiversity Council, the highest government platform to discuss issues related to biodiversity conservation chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister.

He expressed hope that the paper would lead to a stronger collaborative partnership between the federal government and the state government of Sabah to ensure the continuity of the country’s natural heritage.

Touching on the workshop, he said it was hoped that it would provide invaluable information and positive outcomes to the participants, and bring significant success in collaborative efforts to curb wildlife trafficking in the future.

Earlier in his speech, Palanivel said combating wildlife trafficking was in Malaysia’s interest, in line with its position as party member to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Moreover, Malaysia is also committed to fulfilling the requirement and obligation set forth under the provision of CITES.

“It has been in our interest because we understand that this activity has affected the world’s precious biodiversity. In order to protect it, collaboration from all, namely countries, government and organizations are crucial as wildlife trafficking involves an extensive and complex network and thus becoming a serious trans-national crime issue,” he said.

The Sumatran rhinoceros are mainly hunted for their horns, which are known to have been traded from equatorial Asia to China.

Trade controls alone is too little, too late to save the critically endangered species from extinction but rather than abandoning the species, Malaysia has made a last-ditch effort to create a Sumatran rhino embryo in laboratory.

A preliminary attempt was made last year in Europe using rhino eggs and sperm from Sabah and this year, the effort led by the Sabah Wildlife Department will be pursued locally as well.

The insemination project is carried out in collaboration with specialists from Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research of Germany and Avantea laboratories of Italy, and financially supported by Sime Darby Foundation and NGO Borneo Rhino Alliance.

Meanwhile, it was learned that the forum among others discussed the National Ivory Action Plan and ongoing measures being taken in Malaysia to combat trading of endangered animals.

It was also noted in the forum that Malaysia has been listed as one of the “primary concern” in the poaching of elephants and the illegal trade in ivory but the country has been taking serious effort to address the issue.