One of three Sumatran rhinos left in M’sia in bad shape

The abscess on Puntung as it appeared last week during treatment. Photo courtesy of Sabah Wildlife Department

KOTA KINABALU: Puntung, one of the last three Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia, remains very ill due to an abscess deep inside her upper jaw, but shows signs of improvement.

Following the initial public alert of her condition on evening of April 5, Puntung had two very bad days on April 6 and 7.

“Normally, she will consume about 30 kilograms of fresh leaves and twigs daily. She ate very little over those two days, and spent most of the daytime lethargic in her wallow,” reported Sabah Wildlife Department Director Augustine Tuuga.

“And on the 7th, there was intermittent bleeding from her left nostril. We really thought there was no more hope. But on April 8 signs of improvement started to appear. She became more active and the bleeding stopped,” he said.

According to Datuk John Payne of Borneo Rhino Alliance, the non-governmental organisation delegated to manage the rhinos at Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in Tabin Wildlife Reserve, a combination of constant attention, antibiotics, fruits and various supplements may have turned the situation around.

The Sanctuary’s manager and rhino veterinarian Dr Zainal Zainuddin said that Puntung’s naturally stubborn nature might have played a role but that has made their job all the more difficult.

“We have been trying to take an X-ray for the past four days but she is irritated not only by pain but by our attention, not least the injections. And intermittent heavy rain every day has converted her paddock to a big mud bath.

“We are in frequent contact with specialist rhino veterinary surgeons in South Africa, but they need to see the radiograph before we can decide how to proceed,” he said.

Tuuga stressed that Puntung’s recovery is still by no means certain, but that he is cautiously optimistic.

“We are ready for any new development and any outcome,” he said.

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