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  SOS Rhino : In the News : News From The Field : Monthly Field Report for May 2005
MAY 2005
  By Dr. Edwin Bosi

First of May do sound familiar. Indeed, this is an evergreen song by the Bee Gees. May 1st is also Labor's Day, a public holiday in Malaysia to honor the hard working people of the Nation. As the 1st of May fell on Sunday, the following Monday is automatically a public holiday. But for us in the conservation work, everyday seems a great day for working. Today, we headed for another rhino survey along the Tabin river. With me was Dr. Janna Wynne, a senior veterinarian at Los Angeles Zoo and my assistants - Suzali, Amit, Frederic and Yusri.

Janna had earlier visited Sepilok to examine the female rhino's ("Gelogob") eyes and did some blood collection. While florescent test showed no corneal ulcers, Janna felt there is hope for recovery for one of her eyes. Sepilok vet, Dr. Rosa has implemented a treatment regime of antibiotic and anti-fungal, which appeared to have positive result. The boys at Sepilok, James Kapis, Silih, Irwan, Benji and Justine are working extra hard to get the rhinos in fine health. On the other hand, Janna who is the vet for Andalas, the first male Sumatran rhino born in Cincinnati Zoo on 13th September 2001, has collected blood from a unique place, the inter-digital space. We have the opportunity to see and learn this new technique while Rosa showed Janna how blood is collected from the tail vein. Janna has also provided all the necessary eye medication to Dr. Sen, another wildlife department's veterinarian in case Gelogob needs a different regime of treatment.

It is a must to see the other programs run by SOS Rhino in Sabah. The most crucial aspect of our program is the in situ program involving field surveys to determine the presence, distribution and population density of Sumatran rhino in the habitat. With this knowledge, we can think about protection. The goal is to allow natural increase of population in its natural habitat through protection, and later to relocate some to its former home ranges in other parts of Borneo. A very formidable task indeed but nothing is impossible when one has the passion, dedication, commitment and vision for this species. Thus, SOS Rhino needs the help (SOS) of everyone who cares for this species, so ancient and our last breathing link with the prehistoric time.

On the 2nd day, we divided into two groups for rhino tracking. Both groups found evidence of rhino - hoof prints. The group led by Amit found two old hoof prints of an adult, which is worth noting but may not give much information. The other group led by Suzali found more interesting evidence - smaller hoof prints measuring an average of 16cm diameter. Unfortunately, only three prints were worthy of measuring. Again, such few numbers of hoof prints will not provide much information. It is worth doing a more intensive survey in this area comprising of more trackers.

Pix shows a 16cm rhino hoof print found during the survey

On the 3rd May, Janna proceeded to Sepilok with two field assistants. I flew back to Kota Kinabalu and met up with the Director of Wildlife Department the next day to brief him about Tabin and Sepilok. The two assistants were sent over to help construct a fence in one of the enclosures, help clear the area and repair the wall fences. This was to prepare for the breeding program as recommended by me. As soon as the enclosure is ready, the female will have access to this area where she will be able to engage with the male on the other side of the fence. The behavior will be recorded and detection of estrus the main criteria. Earlier examination by veterinarians from Berlin has indicated that she is cycling. Janna left for home on the 9th May.

On 12th May, I have the opportunity to meet up with Dale Williams of Oceanic Marine Sanctuary Foundation (OMSF), which is based in the west coast of Sabah. We are looking at the possibility of collaboration.

On 17th May, I drove down to Sandakan and visited the rhinos at Sepilok. I met up with Cole and Jacqueline from Canberra who were visiting Sabah organized by the National Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Team (NZACT). NZACT is helping to raise awareness and also to raise fund for SOS Rhino. After a rare meeting with the rhinos and briefing on the plight of this species, the couple promise to give more time for the Sumatran rhino of Borneo.

L - R: Cole and Jacqueline with Dr. Edwin at the Sumatran rhino breeding center, Sepilok

On 19th, I drove back to Kota Kinabalu and headed straight to the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) to fetch Dr. Nan Schaffer, President and Founder of SOS Rhino. Nan was back to Sabah for a 6-day working visit. Earlier Nan has traveled to Sydney and Perth for speaking engagement in SEAZA conference and meeting up with the Chairperson of NZACT Shelly Russell, Asian Rhino Project Kerry Crosbie, Australian UN ambassador to GRASP Aleisha Caruso and film producer Robyn Marais.

As soon as she is settled, Nan paid a courtesy call on Mr. Mahedi Andau, the Director of Wildlife Department Sabah. Mahedi's deputy and officer were also present. Nan discussed with Mahedi on the breeding program and the findings of the German veterinarians. Nan recommended that a testicular biopsy be done to confirm the fertility of the male rhino. Mr. Mahedi agreed with Nan on this issue and also to work on the rhinos using technique developed by the department in 1995.

Nan was interviewed by conservation journalist from Borneo Post, Leonard Alaza on 19th May. Her article came out on Sunday, 22nd May. The next day, Nan met up with Ms Margaret Fung of Tabin Wildlife Resort at her office. In the meeting were Tony Liew and Ms Wong from Tabin Wildlife Resort and John Lo from SOS Rhino (Borneo). The outcome of the meeting was encouraging as Ms Fung has requested SOS Rhino to put up a rhino exhibition in their resort, and to provide information and guiding to their guests in

Tabin. In the afternoon, Nan paid a courtesy call on Mr. Rayner Stuel Galid, the Director of Fisheries Sabah. Recently, Rayner and his officers made a visit to Dagat to provide assistance to that fishing community. The Dagat community is ever grateful to SOS Rhino for facilitating the Fisheries Department's visit.

Pix shows Nan with Ms Margaret Fung, John Lo (L), Tony Liew (R) and Ms Wong (hidden) at the meeting

Pix shows Nan with Mr. Rayner Stuel Galid, Director of Fisheries Department Sabah

On 21st Nan took time off to see Danum Valley conservation area in Lahad Datu. This area is situated southwest of Tabin reserve. This is one of the two known rhino habitats. Prior to flying back to Kota Kinabalu the next day Nan made a flying visit to Tabin Wildlife Resort.

Dr. Thaya, SOS Rhino-sponsored postgraduate student met up and brief Nan of his progress on the 21st morning. One of the most exciting news from Thaya is his ability to statistically differentiate individual rhino when many fresh hoof prints are recorded.

Pix shows Dr. Thaya (L) showing rhino dung found in a creek during his field research. With him were Dr. Edwin Bosi (R) and Sarinus Aniong (C).

On 23rd May, a board meeting of SOS Rhino (Borneo) was held at SOSR (B)'s office. All three directors were present including Gem Asildo, the Development Officer of SOS Rhino (Borneo). Many issues were discussed. Later in the evening, Nan, John and I met up with Mr. Annuar Ghani from North Borneo 4WD to discuss about a 'rhino charge' event in Sabah, to raise fund for SOS Rhino.

On 24th May, Nan and I met up with Dr. Junaidi Payne of WWF-Sabah at his office in Center Point, Kota Kinabalu before flying off to Hong Kong.

On 29th May, I headed back to Tanjung Utik and Dagat to attend the wedding of team leader Suzali Jaya. While there, I was able to get the latest information about our progress from the field team members who went to the rhino survey in Danum Valley.

SOS Rhino (Borneo) sent seven of our best field staffs to the survey. I was also able to brief them on the upcoming rhino survey in Tabin and the plan of action for June 2005.

Pix shows Suzali and his bride with SOS Rhino team. Next to Dr. Edwin is the Dagat village chief, Aji Salih (standing L). Extreme left is the village chief's wife

SOS Rhino Volunteers

I have the opportunity to meet up with two volunteers from UK, Andrew and David during my visit to Dagat. They are now residing in Dagat, having had some nights at Tanjung Utik. Both of them study at the University of Edinburg, Scotland. They are in Dagat to teach English to SOS Rhino (Borneo) field staffs and also, the youths of Dagat village. We hope that the village youths will become effective tour guides for foreign tourists as the area becomes another tourist destination. Andrew and David have already experienced a Malay wedding, food and dance.

Pix shows David (R) and Andrew having lunch at Tanjung Utik with SOS Rhino (Borneo) field staffs

SOS Rhino (Borneo) shares some exciting findings in the tropical rainforest. No caption means that the subject matter has not been identified yet. If you do know the subject matter please let us know.

Pix above shows nests made by orangutans. The predators of young orangutans are pythons and clouded leopards. Staying and even sleeping high up on the trees keeps them secure from predators.

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