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  SOS Rhino : In the News : News From The Field : Monthly Field Report for September 2005
September 2005
  On the 1st of September, I have the opportunity to taste the beautiful environment of Swiss mountain. I remember Switzerland because of the Matterhorn cigarette in the 70s. It has been a long time but the mountains remained embedded in my memory. I did not actually see Matterhorn as we were on the other side of the country. While having a BBQ lunch, I noticed helicopter hovering over the mountain. I was informed that the helicopter is the only transportation to the peak of these mountains. I also learned that veterinarians are flown to the farms located high up in the mountain. Cattle are also moved around with helicopters. Indeed, a small country but with lots of creativity and innovative. Imagine a country producing the best chocolate in the world without planting cocoa. Let me not talk about their dairy products! They are the best in the world.

Martina ® and Elena are both news reader for the Swiss radio stations. Martina is the sister of Nicole Schnyder, SOS Rhino volunteer. This picture was taken at the Schnyder’s mountain retreat. Both ladies are looking forward to visiting Sabah as SOS Rhino volunteers. They will certainly be talking about the Sumatran rhino of Borneo to the Swiss over the air.

On my return to Sabah on 3rd, I need to take some break to re-charge myself. I left for Bintulu in Sarawak, and spent few days in the deeper part of the country. I saw their rivers and forest. The most interesting was to be in a longhouse with the Ibans, the native of Sarawak. They used to be headhunters but to me they are the friendliest people. They will offer any stranger a place to stay in their longhouse and feed them. I met one who told me of his young days in Tabin forest. The Ibans are adventurous people and skillful hunters and gatherers. He mentioned of shooting a rhino with a shotgun in Tabin in the 70s. After the shot, his team of nine people took three days to locate the animal. She was pregnant. Each of them received RM800.00 for the horn. What surprised me was his no recollection of rhino in Sarawak. This is a part of Malaysia that you need to visit. NO head hunting, they love strangers (I meant visitors).

Dr. Edwin talking about the rhino with the native Ibans in one of the longhouses.

On 16th September, a group from the Lions Club of Penampang led by President Melvin Disimon visited the villages of Parit and Dagat, in Tabin. His entourage comprised of Secretary Susan Spiji, Immdiate Past President Dr. Jagajeet Singh, Past President William Pain, Past President Aidan Cheah and three friends, Sylvester Spiji, Michael Stephens and Phua. I was part of the entourage as I am also a Past President of the club.

This is an interesting project. Once again, SOS Rhino (Borneo) has facilitated the visit to the villages. This is in line with our community outreach program (COP). The students were given oral deworming, eyes checkup and goodies consisting of toothbrush, toothpaste, school stationary and snacks. The deworming, which is recommended to be given every six months, was also offered to the parents present including staffs of SOS Rhino (Borneo). A 400-gallon water tank was also donated to the school. According to Melvin, he plans to organize more health project in Tabin.

Lion Dr. Jagajeet dispensing oral dewormer to the students while teacher Walter looked on.

Lion Susan and teacher Abdul Rahman doing the eye-check.

Lion Williams distributing goodies to the students

Group photo after the project

Dr. Edwin briefing Lion members on activity of SOS Rhino.

One of the spectacular sights - cutting across the water hyacinth in Tabin triburary.

Lions members and SOS Rhino (Borneo)

President Lion Melvin (L) and members on a boat cruise and wildlife viewing along the mighty Tabin & Segama river.

Lion Melvin and Dr. Jagajeet are avid photographers. I shall select a couple of their photos that they felt made their trip to Tabin memorable and worthwhile.

Rhino boat blown away by strong wind by Melvin

Fresh elephant dung along Tabin road by Melvin

Sunset at the Segama River by Lion Dr. Jagajeet

Documentary film on oil palm and conservation

PPB Oil Palm Berhad has commissioned a documentary film about oil palm and conservation. As a partner in conservation, I was on location at Sabahmas Plantation near Tabin on 24th September to give an interview. My personal opinion is that the oil palm industry is very sensitive to conservation. While established plantations are now working on undertaking conservation within their properties such as rehabilitation of riparian and letting unsuitable areas of secondary forests to regenerate naturally. The other most important activity is the protection of forest and wildlife reserve from encroachment, when they share the same boundary. SOS Rhino (Borneo) is provided with monthly supply of diesel for our Rhino Protection Unit (RPU) by Sabahmas Plantation. On the other hand, we in SOS Rhino also provide technical advice on matters concerning conservation to the oil palm companies.

SOS Rhino volunteers learning about oil palm at Sabahmas Plantation from Simon Siburat, a Senior PPB Oil Palm Manager.

Reports from RPU Team Leaders

Suzali Jaya

Suzali Jaya, the team leader for RPU 2 based at Dagat and Tanjung Utik was a busy man in August when a 9-member team from Camyre Outlook Expedition from UK came to volunteer and joined a rhino tracking survey along the Tabin river from 11th – 17th August. Although no rhino evidence was seen, the fresh tracks from the Borneo’s wild elephants and Banteng (wild cattle) were awesome. It is ones dream to see the elephants in the wild but there is also risk involved. Keeping the distance with Asia’s biggest mammal is a smart move. The Banteng is now a totally protected animal by the Sabah government. The male is magnificent with its broad chest and muscular neck, smaller muscular hindquarter with those unique white stockings and white patches on the rump. I have encountered this bull once along the Tabin river.

With life jackets on, the team headed for survey site.

Team leader Amit Pilik illustrating how a rhino hoof prints look like.

UK volunteers and elephant tracks in Tabin

UK volunteers visited the primary school at Parit

A file picture of a Banteng taken in Maliau Basin by Sabah Foundation’s staff. In Sabah, this animal is also called Tembadau.

Suzali and his team were involved in the production of a documentary film from Hong Kong on 11th and 12th September. This documentary looks at Tabin Wildlife Reserve and its richness in biodiversity. Tabin is about the world’s last bastion for the Sumatran rhino of Borneo. Only a lucky few have ever encountered this elusive animal in the wild. There are but two rhinos under managed breeding at Sepilok.

Suzali (center) discussing with HK film crew before shooting the SOS Rhino (Borneo) team in action in the jungle and mud volcano.

A HK film member found a baby civet

Frederic Micheal aka JJ

Team Leader Frederic Micheal aka JJ, led his team comprising Yusry, Lusry, Rasman and Andrew to KM12 to check and continue with transect recently assigned to TrekForce. SOS Rhino (Borneo) has two new recruits - Rasman and Andrew. They will undergo the three months of intensive training. An appraisal will be conducted to see if they are worthy of joining this exclusive team of rhino trackers of Borneo. (Please check on a special write-up on the RPU in this website and learn what it takes to be a RPU member)

The team has reported seeing one clear but old rhino hoof print on 11th September. This is not unlikely as hoof prints can be covered by forest litter, and saved from the impact of the rain. The other wild animals encountered were Barking deer, Sambar deer and Wild pig. The team also saw Orangutan nests and numerous prints of the largest mammal, the Asian elephants.

New Field Assistants

Rasman Jaya

Andrew Ginsos

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