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  SOS Rhino : In the News : News From The Field : Monthly Field Report for April 2005
 
MONTHLY FIELD REPORT
APRIL 2005
  From Perth, my vacation led me to Darwin, the Capital of Northern Territory of Australia. The heat was as good as in Sabah but with a lower humidity. Pushpalatha, a lecturer of Marine Biology at the Borneo Marine Institute of University Malaysia Sabah was on hand to show me Darwin. She is doing a PhD on the Hawksbill turtle, looking at the commercial value of its carapace. Pushpa in short, is rearing artificially a small number of Hawksbill for her research.

I also had the privilege to meet the world's renowned crocodile experts; Prof. Grahame Webb and Dr. Charles Manolis at the Crocodylus Park. Both men are supervising Pushpa's research project.

Down under: Dr. Edwin, with Prof. Webb (R ), Dr. Manolis (L ) and Pushpa at Webb's office.

The Crocodylus Park is managed by Prof. Webb through Wildlife Management International Pty Ltd. and is focused to create a new public education forum on the world's crocodilians. Besides crocodiles, the Park also keeps other wild animals for research such as the Banteng, Tigers, Turtles and Birds. It is about 15 minutes drive from Darwin. You can check their website at http://wmi.com.au/crocpark.

Through Pushpa and postgraduate school of Charles Darwin University, I was able to present a talk on Sumatran rhino conservation on 1st April.

Above: Dr. Edwin on stage presenting the talk

After the talk I was again privileged to meet with several prominent academicians and researchers. A postgraduate student has indicated to come over to Sabah to be a SOS Rhino volunteer.

During my last few days I went to see Kakado National Park from the air and visited the Territory Wildlife Park.

Below: Kakado National Park - rocks, shrubs & waterfalls




On 15th April, I was off to Sandakan and Sepilok. Later, I drove down to Lahad Datu and visited my oil palm plantation friends at Sabahmas. On 17th April, I was in Tanjung Utik and met up with Aleisha Caruso and Ashley Young. Aleisha is the United Nation Ambassador to Great Ape Australia. She and her assistant have just returned from China to promote the Panda. Aleisha's passion is to promote conservation of all the endangered species. Thus, the Sumatran rhino is in her list. We spent a couple of days in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve doing rhino tracking. Unfortunately we did not see any evidence of the elusive species. Aleisha and Ashley were not disappointed as the rainforest experience and meeting with the local community were rewarding. In fact, the villagers at Dagat prepared a special breakfast for her when she came to visit them on her way out of the forest and to Lahad Datu. On 20th April, Aleisha and Ashley met up with the Director of Wildlife Department Sabah, Patrick Andau. While in Kota Kinabalu, Aleisha was interviewed by Leonard Salazar, Borneo Mail's prominent conservation journalist.

Dr. Edwin showing Aleisha a rhino hoof print in Tabin reserve(photo credit:Aleisha Caruso)

Below: Aleisha on her computer and Dr. Edwin deep in the rainforest of Borneo(photo credit:Aleisha Caruso)


Above: Aleisha's assistant, Ashley Young with team leader Suzali Jaya ready for a boat trip (photo credit:Aleisha Caruso)



On 26th April, I went to Sepilok with Dr. Janna Wynne, a senior veterinarian with Los Angeles Zoo in the United States. Dr. Wynne has volunteered to come to assist me to have a look at the troubled eyes of the female rhino at Sepilok. On 27th, Janna met up with Dr. Rosa, the Sepilok resident veterinarian. Janna has excellent background on Sumatran rhino as she is looking after Andalas who is residing in LA Zoo, and is the male rhino born in Cincinnati Zoo on 13th September 2001. Janna showed Rosa on alternative methods of collecting blood from Sumatran rhino. Gelogob the female rhino is never easy to collect blood but with the technique of collection via her interdigital vein, the exercise was made easy. Rosa then, showed Janna the method of collecting blood via the tail vein. Janna also did the fluorescence test on Gelogob's eye and found that there is no corneal ulceration. Janna is optimistic that one of her eyes may have a chance to recover and thus, regain her full sight. Other procedures were semen collection by manual palpation and rectal palpation on the female.

Later in the day, Janna assisted Rosa in removing a damaged eye of a sun bear. Janna has now prepared a report on her brief visit and a follow up is necessary.

Below: Dr. Rosa showing how to collect the blood via the tail vein(photo credit:Janna Wynne)

Below: Dr. Rosa (2nd from right) with Dr. Janna (right) enucleating one eye of the sun bear at the Sepilok Wildlife Clinic(photo credit:Janna Wynne)




On 29th to 3rd May 2005, I took Janna to Tabin to see our in situ program. We stayed at Tanjung Utik for 2 nights. The first night was meeting and following Dr. Tara on her crocodile census. It was a long cold and tiring night spent on a boat covering some 60 km (to-and-fro) of the Segama river. We saw 16 crocodile hatchlings.

We were fortunate to see some evidence of rhino during the tracking. As usual there were only two hoof prints that can be seen and they were small and could be a rhino calf. We have never been able to see a good many prints from a rhino calf. There is good reason to send in more rhino trackers to this area soon.

Below: Janna enjoying her boat trip

Janna waiting patiently for a special dinner to be served




Reports from the Field Staffs


Hayro, led a 4-member team to check on a hot spring located in his area of coverage that is, the southeastern part of Tabin reserve. The hot spring was located followed by a thorough survey for rhino. No rhino track was found but the team heard calls from the orangutans and sun bear. The team also saw evidence of elephants, mouse deer, wild pigs, barking deer, monitor lizards, red leaf monkeys, hornbills and black crows. Unfortunately, the team also found poacher's trail. A GPS has been taken and a report filed to the Tabin Wildlife office for action.

Honorary Game Warden (HGW) Training

A 3-day training for honorary game wardens was conducted by the Wildlife Department at the Wildlife Office at Tabin from 12th - 14th April 2005. About 25 participants took part in which four came from SOS Rhino (Borneo). They are Rayner Bili (Field Coordinator), Hayro Nuvin (Supervisor), Suzali Jaya (Team Leader) and Amit Pilik (Field Assistant). Honorary Game Wardens or HGW have the same power as Wildlife Officers in enforcing the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997. This is a noble idea and we hope to have all SOS Rhino (Borneo) field staffs be appointed HGW.

Sepilok and Berlin Veterinarians

The Berlin Boys were expected to be at Sepilok from the 11th to 20th April 2005. Two staffs, Helter Haam and Marikus Suyat were dispatched to Sepilok with the Ford Ranger to provide logistic for Dr. Petra during the working visit of the veterinarians from Berlin. The two of them were also involved in assisting the Sepilok staff to clean the stalls and feed the rhinos. Later, they brought Aleisha Caruso and Ashley Young (who were in Sepilok as part of their visit) into Tabin for rhino tracking.

Joint Enforcement Exercise

A joint enforcement patrol was conducted between the Wildlife Department in Tabin and SOS Rhino (Borneo) at the southeastern part of Tabin reserve from 18th - 20th April 2005. This was in response to the finding of poacher's trails at the hot springs earlier in the month. A three-member team that is led by Rayner Bili, from SOS Rhino, two others, Justin Endei and Zul Azhan Awang represented the Wildlife department. No arrest was made.

Rhino Tracking with Aleisha Caruso

Suzali Jaya (Team Leader) led a 6-member team to do rhino tracking along the Tabin river from 18th - 20th April 2005. In the team, were Dr. Edwin Bosi, Aleisha and Ashley Young. As reported earlier, the team may have found evidence of rhino calf in the area. Thus, a bigger team and bigger coverage on the area is planned to track down this calf.

Patrol & Surveillance

Hayro led his 6-member team to check the area where poachers were found in February 2005 from 23rd - 24th April 2005. It appeared that the poachers have been in the area about a week earlier based on leftovers, empty cartridges and trails. Their campsite was also located.

A comprehensive report has been filed with the Wildlife Office at Tabin together with photographic evidences from the scene. Both the Wildlife Department and SOS Rhino (Borneo) RPU will be closely monitoring this situation. In fact Hayro's RPU is now permanently based on the southeastern part of Tabin. His base camp, which is adjacent to the reserve is expected to be ready by June 2005.

IMMEDIATE PLAN

We will be undertaking a rhino survey starting from July 2005. All the 15 field staffs and officers will be involved in the survey. A total of 6 North-South transects will be used. The main objective is to look for fresh rhino tracks where we can measure more than 20 hoof prints (the more the better) involving both the front left and front right tracks. We will use statistics to interpret these measurements. We will be taking digital pictures of the rhino tracks (hoof prints) and interpret them using a software to be developed by our Masters student.

Volunteers for these surveys are most welcome. Please join our volunteer program.

IMMEDIATE REQUIREMENT

SOS Rhino (Borneo) needs two brand new 4x4 off road vehicle. At present we have a 4-year old Ford Ranger and a 2nd hand Toyota Mark II. Without good reliable vehicles, enforcement of Tabin Wildlife Reserve is very difficult.

Do we have anyone or organization out there who would like to donate a 4-WD for SOS Rhino (Borneo)? Thank you.





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