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SOS Rhino : In the News : Articles : 4th Sumatran Rhino Conservation Workshop (5th to 6th July 2007)
4th Sumatran Rhino Conservation Workshop (5th to 6th July 2007)

“Saving the species was the most urgent message driven home at the workshop”

SOS Rhino Borneo and the Sabah Wildlife Department, recently organized the 4th Sumatran Rhino Conservation workshop, in partnership with WWF-Malaysia and Universiti Malaysia Sabah.  The two-day workshop was held in Kota Kinabalu and was officially launched by the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment YB Datuk Hj. Masidi Manjun. There were 90 participants in attendance most of whom were from the conservation, environmental, and tourism sectors.

Day 1 began with a closed Technical  working group meeting involving the researchers and scientists from SOS Rhino Borneo, Sabah Wildlife Department, WWF-Malaysia and WWF-International, Universiti of Malaysia Sabah, Sabah Forestry Department, Department of Wildlife and National Parks, and University Malaysia Sarawak.

The technical working group discussed, evaluated and reviewed the 2004 recommendations for Sumatran rhinoceros conservation and progress achieved to date.  The core discussion focused on methodology for the identification of the rhinoceros (via footprints, camera trapping, DNA), and surveys (history, the 2004 recommendations, recent results) for analysis of the population viability of the Sumatran Rhinoceros in Sabah.


Throughout the session, old and new methods for obtaining data on rhinos were introduced and discussed. One of the methods introduced was to use up-to-date camera trap devices, which had good potential as it could maximize the information from the digital pictures captured. The overall point being to combine & integrate all possible identification methods to get the most data. Whereas the overall point on surveys was to develop a strategy combining techniques and efforts amongst NGOs, Universities and Governmental Agencies.

The afternoon session was the official launch and opening ceremony by the guest of honor, YB Datuk Hj. Masidi Manjun. A press conference was held on completion of the various speeches by the guest of honor and the President of SOS Rhino Dr. Nan Schaffer.


Day 2 began as speakers were invited to deliberate a number of issues pertaining to the plight of the Sumatran Rhinoceros and their current programs and activities on Sumatran Rhinoceros Conservation in Malaysia. 

Over 90 participants from the conservation, private, government and NGO sectors attended and participated.

Discussion Session

After the presentations, participants divided into two groups for an open discussions:

Group A: Securing the rhino population in Tabin Wildlife Reserve
Group B: Expanding Sumatran rhino awareness efforts, with focus on Tabin Wildlife Reserve

The Group A discussion was facilitated by Dr. Nan Schaffer, SOS Rhino Borneo and A. Christy Williams, WWF-International.

Participants from group A actively took part and voiced their opinions on next steps for Sumatran rhino conservation in Sabah. Many of them focused on instituting translocation of isolated rhinos to well protected areas such as Danum Valley and Tabin Wildlife Reserve to address the biggest  concern – the rhino’s inability to meet and mate.

Following is part of the resolution, which was created based on recent survey results and technical working group discussions from day 1, that was presented to the group during the presentations. 

‘This workshop recommends that a closely-managed rhino population be established in Sabah. Selected rhinos from throughout Sabah will be captured and brought to a designated area (DA).  The purpose of the designated area will be to get as many of its rhinos as possible to breed.

The DA will be designed and managed in light of the lessons learned from past experience and mistakes in the capture and husbandry of Sumatran rhinos. The facility will be planned for a period of five years, after which progress will be reviewed, and if necessary, changes then be made to Sabah’s rhino policy.

We strongly recommend that a Rhino Task Force (comprising national and international stakeholders and experts) be established within the next three months under the Sabah Wildlife Department’s leadership. 


Many of the participants shared their opinions and views with the group regarding the Task Force. Most of them focused on identifying a suitable site for rhino translocation & breeding (sex ratio, number of individuals, etc)

In the end, participants of Group A were in agreement with the resolution and recommendations to create a Task Force which is to be set up and spearheaded by the Sabah Wildlife Department and for it to take up and implement the many ideas put forth during the workshop.

Group B focused on ‘Expanding the awareness of the Sumatran Rhino with focus on the Tabin Wildlife Reserve’ and was facilitated by Y.Bhg Prof. Datin Dr. Maryati Mohamed, Universiti Malaysia Sabah and Dr. Petra Kretzschmar, SOS Rhino.

The following statement and question were presented to the group:

Successful conservation efforts must capture the attention of the governmental and private sectors – both locally and internationally.  Empowering local communities to participate in and benefit from Sumatran rhino conservation efforts are important elements for success.

What are the best options for expanding awareness and garnering the public’s support for rhino conservation, dependent on the decision Group A makes in securing the rhino population in Tabin Wildlife Reserve?

The participants decided that the way to proceed was to identify target groups to educate about the plight of the Sumatran rhinos in Sabah and plan from there.
The target groups with the most votes were:  Kampongs, Policy/Decision Makers, and Logging and Plantation Companies. The participants chose their top three priority objectives under each target group, and were then asked to brainstorm how best to reach their objectives.


Results and Recommendations from Group B can be found here (link)

Due to time constraints, discussion group B was unable to go into detail with their proposed actions. Both discussion groups were then reunited for summary of the both discussions and the closing remarks which was conducted by the Sabah Wildlife Department.

A summary of workshop results will be available upon request after November 15.


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