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  SOS Rhino : In the News : News From The Field : Monthly Field Report for August 2004
  I was away in Kuala Lumpur for a 5-day veterinary conference from 23rd to 27th August 2004. The main theme was Animal Health: A BREAKPOINT in economic development. The main topic of interest was a paper on the death of the five Sumatran rhinos at Sungai Dusun in Selangor, Malaysia. Written by Dr. S. Vellayan from Zoo Negara in Kuala Lumpur, he linked the death to Trypanosome evansi, a blood parasite and a fly-borne disease.

On 13th August, I was in Sepilok to meet up with Dr. Petra. According to her, samples of blood have been processed and we now have an idea of the female reproductive physiology. The male is in good shape and he is frequently seen to mount (with an erection) a round log in the enclosure. Fecal samples have been collected and will be sent to Vienna for hormonal analysis.

Pix shows Tanjung mounting on a round log

The rhino exhibit at the reception center continues to draw many visitors. We have been getting positive feedbacks from the tourists as we continue to educate and promote awareness on the plight and conservation of the Sumatran rhinos in Sabah. We have received financial support through donation and purchase of our popular T-shirts with a catchy slogan "Help Our Horny Friends".

Pix shows the rhino exhibit at the reception center

On 28th I went over to Lahad Datu to catch up with Sabahmas plantation Managers. I was informed that our UK volunteer, Mike Sweet, has completed his short experience with plantation life. This is of course our on-going arrangement with Sabahmas Plantation where SOS volunteers are given an opportunity to taste plantation life. The plantation provides free lodging and food.

On 31st August, it is Malaysia Day, a public holiday. While the country celebrated Independence Day, we were at Dagat to meet up with the villagers. Joe Figel a SOS Rhino volunteer from Seattle, USA was immersed with the village setting and the beautiful riverine forest. Interestingly, a dozen Japanese tourists were staying with the Dagat villagers ­ a home-stay program under the Borneon Biodiversity and Ecosystem Conservation (BBEC) program. The BBEC program, which is managed by the Sabah Wildlife Department is focused on habitat management. An area of about 3500 hectares enveloping the lower Segama river is been proposed as a conservation area by the wildlife department.

Pix shows SOS Rhino volunteer Joe Figel enjoying a boat cruise along the Dagat river

Pix shows the natural lake at Dagat village to be managed as a tourist park


Source: Sarinus Aniong

On 4th August, I have directed Sarinus to interview the villagers in Dagat, Parit and Tidung about their experience with Sumatran rhino. Sarinus quickly completed the assignment. One of the most interesting finding was the sighting of a rhino crossing the drain or channel in Parit village. That was about early 1996. This particular rhino was special according to the villagers. It had a collar! This rhino was captured in June 1993, collared with telemetry and released in Tabin reserve. Based on the direction of the animal he was heading for Kulamba Wildlife Reserve, north of Tabin reserve. In 1998, a husband and wife saw fresh hoof prints, dung and rub marks in their farmland, about 300 meter from Dagat. About March 2004 some villagers plucking edible ferns saw a rhino, and it was about 100 meters from Tabin reserve.

Sarinus Aniong led a big team on 16th August. His mission was to assist Dr. Thaya to settle down in his study site. All the necessary equipment and rations were moved. The team also built a high platform for Thaya to keep his computer and other important equipment. Elephants can proved destructive when they are on a rampage. Palm civets, rodents and ants can cause havoc with the food supply. After the camp has been done, Sarinus and team went to undertake rhino survey. They found many fresh rhino hoof prints and dung.

Footnote from Dr. Edwin Bosi

Our July, August and September 2004 surveys along the Tabin and Dagat rivers showed fresh presence of the animals. They were close to Dagat. While we are excited about the findings we must also be cautious of their security. It is well-known fact that rhinos in Tabin reserve do get out of the reserve. This is a case of a very protected animal in a unprotected area. SOS Rhino has made a good choice of establishing a base camp in Dagat. We hope that our presence and engagement with the villagers and oil palm plantations will ensure security to the wondering rhinos.

Source: Ragimah Kasran

Four field staffs from Tabin were sent to Sepilok for training and familiarization with the rhinos from 7th - 14th August. They are Ragimah, Marniah, Lusri and Bindis. These four are new recruits. They were under the supervision of Dr. Petra. They were involved with feeding the animals and cleaning the stalls. It is customary that new recruits are sent to Sepilok for such training.

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