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  SOS Rhino : In the News : News From The Field : Monthly Field Report for October 2005
October 2005
  October means a lot to the Germans. It is the Beer Festival. Somehow, the beer drinking festival also has a place in many Sabahans’ hearts. Is it because there is no more frontier or borders that separate us in this e-era? Fortunately or unfortunately, the government has now increased the tax on alcohol to discourage excessive consumption. Some great mind has said that alcohol may increase the desire but greatly affects the performance. Intoxication is a problem in particular, when one is behind the wheel. You become dangerous to yourself and to others.

How about the Sumatran rhinos? Do they drink? Of course, they don’t but they do visit the mud volcano, the so-called “pub” of wildlife. The two major mud volcanoes at Tabin wildlife is about 20 km apart. The size is about a soccer field. There are several points where bubbles erupt on the surface bringing out hot clear water and greyish soil which spilt over and spread around. These points are usually the highest part of the mud volcano. The water has been found to contain high minerals. Just recently, another school of thought has emerged on mud volcano. They believe that wildlife especially ungulates, patronize the mud volcano not only for the minerals but also, to acquire kaolin, a substance in the soil that neutralizes toxic substances. It is thought that plants have many toxic components and animals protect themselves from these substances by consuming kaolin.

Pix shows Tabin mud volcano in the core area

Pix shows Lipad mud volcano, west of reserve

Pix shows a close up of an active mud volcano

SOS Rhino (Borneo) is gaining some recognition in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A local Sabahan, Dr. Christina Wong, a successful practitioner in complementary health therapy, acupuncture, osteopathy, homeopathy, kinesiology and nutrition in Belfast, came home to experience the jungle of Tabin reserve. Tina stayed at Tanjung Utik from the 6th to 8th October, spending time to visit Dagat village and enjoying the boat cruise and wildlife viewing along the Segama river. She met with members of the RPU based in Dagat, and enjoyed their cooking. She learned of the abundance of natural resources in this area – Nipah palm leaves for roofing, rattans, fish, crabs, mollusc and prawns, and the delicious edible ferns. She was impressed and saw some of the richness of wildlife in Segama river and its riparian – saltwater crocodiles, monitor lizards, flying foxes, oriental darters, brahminy kites, white crested sea eagle, kingfishers, swiftlets (or swallows), green imperial pigeons, parakeets, egrets, heron just to name a few.

Tina has been promoting Sumatran rhino conservation in Northern Ireland since August 2005. After seeing for herself the situation on the ground, the camps and RPUs, she is convinced that donation to SOS Rhino (Borneo) will go a long way to keep the RPU going, and ultimately protect the rhino habitat of Tabin. She has gratefully donated RM5000.00 before departing Sabah. Portion of the donation is spent on buying soccer outfits for the RPUs. She wants to see that the RPUs have sport tracksuits, shorts and socks when they participate in soccer tournaments. This is the second year the inter-village soccer tournament was held in Dagat, after the Muslim month of Ramadan. Tina happily sponsored all the trophies. She agrees that the social aspect in rhino conservation must not be overlooked. After all, the idea of the community outreach program is to engage with the villagers living around Tabin reserve so that they understand the work of SOS Rhino, and will join hand in protecting the habitat knowing that they too, will benefit from it. Tina is writing an article to share her experience of Tabin.

Pix shows Tina enjoying the boat cruise and wildlife viewing along the Segama river with Dr. Edwin and Justin Lanjang.

Pix shows Tina with RPU members based in Dagat

Dr. Nan’s visit to Sabah

Founder and President of SOS Rhino, Dr. Nan Schaffer ‘returned’ to Sabah on 6th October. She left for Sepilok to participate in examining the male Sumatran rhino on 8th and 9th. The German team led by Dr. Robert Hermis focused on examining the testicles of Tanjung to ascertain his ability to produce spermatozoa. A video recording was undertaken to document the exercise. SOS Rhino is waiting for the full report from Dr. Hermis so that a comprehensive report can be prepared an handed over to the Wildlife Department Sabah. Thereafter, the department will decide on the future management plan for the two rhinos at Sepilok.

Pix shows the hairy legs of a Sumatran rhino. A detailed study on the hoofs (sizes) of the rhinos has been undertaken at Sepilok. The data will provide useful information in the field.

Dr. Nan is also one of the Directors of SOS Rhino (Borneo), a local NGO. During her stay, a Board of Director meeting was held to formulate plan and direction for SOS Rhino (Borneo) in the ensuing years. There will be an expansion on manpower. Two more RPUs will be established by the end of 2005. A volunteer coordinator will be recruited to help with the ever-increasing number of volunteers. A field coordinator has been identified and she will start working next month. In order to achieve its objective, the RPUs will have two new 4WDs courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Services. Hopefully, EAZA fund-raising project among the zoos in Europe, will meet its goal so that funding is available and channelled to SOS Rhino for its Rhino Protection Unit and Community Outreach Program.

Reports from the field

Amit Pilik – RPU Team Leader

RPU Team Leader, Amit Pilik led a 5-member team to complete the survey transect at KM32 from the 14th – 18th October 2005. They saw four orang-utan nests, seven bearded pigs and a Sambar deer during the trip. Their trip was cut-short when one of them fell ill. Rain also hampered the survey. Out of the forest, the team continued to complete the construction of the base camp in the southeast of the reserve.

Pic shows two orangutan nests

Pix shows RPUs erecting the posts for the guardhouse

Pix shows the new guardhouse taking shape.

Frederic Micheal “JJ” RPU Team Leader

JJ led a 6-member team to KM12. One of them is Marc Bowden, a volunteer from Tasmania, Australia. The left the base camp on 18th October and by noon, they have to take shelter due to rain. The team was out to complete the survey transect south of KM12 and undertake surveys. There was no evidence of rhinos. Hoof prints of other ungulates were found. On 21st the team encountered a Sambar deer. The team found two wallows on the 25th. They returned on the 29th. Out of the 12 days in the forest, five days were raining. While rain gives good hoof print impressions, they can also wash away the evidence and make surveys very difficult.

Pix shows a female Sambar deer caught on camera trap.

Pic shows Marc Bowden (front row, 3rd from left) with the SOS Rhino (Borneo) team.

Suzali Jaya – RPU Team Leader

Team Leader Suzali Jaya led a 4-member team to survey the area along the Tabin river from 13th – 25th October 2005. As usual, the trip started by taking the boat upstream. The common animals encountered along the river are the Oriental Darters, egrets, lesser fish eagle, dusky grey heron, kingfishers and helmeted hornbills and three river terrapins. During this survey, there was no evidence of the rhino. This area is commonly used by the rhino(s), and this could mean that they were feeding in some other areas in the reserve. The wildlife encountered by the team were Sambar deer, mouse deer, barking deer, grey leaf monkeys, monitor lizards, rhinoceros hornbills, crested fireback, red-breasted partridge and plain pigmy squirrel. Hoof prints of elephants and tembadau were common findings in this survey area. Out of 13 days, eight days were raining especially in the evening and night.

Pic shows a matured river terrapin

Pic shows a tame Oriental Darter at Dagat, raised by hand from chick. An amazing bird that dives to catch fish, and takes off with ease despite being in the state of soaking wet.

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