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  SOS Rhino : In the News : News From The Field : Monthly Field Report for December 2005
December 2005

December is a month of festivity and 25th December to mark the birth of Jesus Christ. For Christians this is Christmas day. Interestingly, Christians in Egypt and Russia celebrate Christmas in early January. In the United States, some Americans like to call it the holiday season. Indeed, some like to spell Christmas as Xmas day.

In far away Borneo and in Tabin in particular, December is another critical month for those involved in the protection of the reserve. Members of the RPUs (Rhino Protection Units) are also celebrating Xmas and the New Year. They have to be contented to have a shorter holiday. We have seen some correlation between encroachments to public holidays. It is very logical move on the part of poachers to enter protected areas when there is public holiday. Understanding this phenomena greatly assist enforcement officers in planning strategy against encroachments.

The early part of the month was mainly paper works. I left for Tabin on 12th with an intention to check out the new camp at the Southeast part of the reserve and undertake a 5-day rhino survey. Fadzilawati @ Lynn, the new Field Coordinator was in Lahad Datu with team leader, Marikus Sayat to fetch me from the airport. We had a fruitful day as I brought Lynn to meet up with the officer and staffs of the Wildlife Department in Lahad Datu. We also made a courtesy call on the officer and staffs of the Forestry Department Lahad Datu. MK Nexus Machinery Suppliers is our main workshop for our vehicles. I have introduced Lynn to the owner of the workshop so that we will continue to have good relationship. In general, workshops in Lahad Datu do not usually accept jobs without cash payment. So having a credit line with MK Nexus has helped us tremendously. This is made possible through the recommendation of our partner, Sabahmas Plantation, one of the biggest clients of MK Nexus.

I spent many hours with Lynn at Tabin. We went through her job specifications and her plan for December and January. She has started well by interviewing few prospective Field Assistants. She has also made good contact with the Wildlife Department officer and staffs at Tabin. She has been meeting and making plan to set up a rhino exhibition booth at Tabin Wildlife resort. Lynn has also met with the Senior Manager of Sabahmas Plantation, Mr. Manian.

My plan to make a visit to the new camp and undertake a rhino survey did not materialize. Somehow, all three RPUs were already in the forest. My visit to Tabin was never boring. Along the road, I managed to capture a picture of a beautiful male jungle fowl feeding on the road. This bird is believed to have been introduced into the State. During the night, there was a herd of about 20 elephants foraging along the road near the base camp. Their trumpets pierced the still night. On day light, the grass along that stretch has been grazed clean and many branches of tree littering the road. They left many huge hoof prints that were embedded into the muddy ground and if this is not sufficient evidence, they leave behind piles of dung on the road.

A male jungle fowl along Tabin road.

I spent my Christmas and New Year in Ireland. Dr. Christina Wong continues to support the Sumatran rhino of Borneo. She has raised almost RM10000.00. The Sumatran rhino of Borneo is slowly becoming known in Belfast. Dublin Zoo is a strong supporter of SOS Rhino. Christina and I visited the zoo on 28th December to see the White Rhinos. I am happy to meet Alice Cooper, a Zookeeper at Dublin. Alice was one of my volunteers at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center in 1999. Together with Maia Dumphy, they are credited for the beautiful mural in the exhibition room at Sepilok.

Dr. Edwin Bosi with Dublin Zookeepers, Alice Cooper (R) and Lise Jorgensen. Lise has worked with the White Rhinos.

While visiting the Guinness Brewery in Dublin, Dr. Christina Wong feels that we should share this amazing cartoon. Guinness may like to sponsor the Sumatran rhino of Borneo.


Fadzilawati @ Lynn – New Field Coordinator

Fadzilawati hails from Kuching, Sarawak. A graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Zoology in 2005 from University Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), she was recruited in November 2005. After a week of orientation in Kota Kinabalu under our Development Officer, Gem Asildo she finally made her way to Tabin on 25th November 2005.

Based on her November report, she has quickly established communication with the Tabin wildlife office and Tabin Wildlife Resort. She met the team leaders and field teams, three RPUs comprising 15 persons under her command. She will be interviewing candidates to fill the positions for another two RPUs by the end of 2005. Her December report mentioned about visit to Dagat village and Tunku village. She met with the village chiefs and in particular, briefed the village chief of Tunku on the role of SOS Rhino (Borneo). This is part of our community outreach program. Not withstanding all the hard works, December also provide some moment for relaxation. Staff of SOS Rhino (Borneo) was invited to a Christmas party organized by Tabin Wildlie Resort on the 20th. She has started to work on the rhino exhibition booth at Tabin Wildlife Resort. The latter is one of our partners in conservation.


Suzali Jaya
RPU 2 Team Leader

Suzali Jaya, RPU 2 team leader led his team to KM36 north from 12th -23rd November, 2005. This expedition was not reported earlier. There are few interesting findings during this particular expedition. The expedition started in Dagat village, upstream of Tabin by boat before trekking to the core area. The most exciting sighting was the 4-day old rhino tracks. Suzali managed to collect and document 40 measurements of the left and right front hoof prints, and similar number for the left and right middle toe. We will not divulge the GPS reading of the track for obvious reason. However, we will run these data for statistical analysis, and compare them with other tracks that are in our record. Hopefully, by the end of the rhino survey we will have a better understanding of the population density of rhino in Tabin reserve. The other finding of significance was the sighting of a crocodile basking along the Lumpangon river. We have similar sighting of crocodile upstream of Tabin river. This means that we have to be cautious when swimming or crossing these rivers. The notion that crocodiles are not found upstream because of the boulders and pebbles does not hold water now! It is believed that the boulders and pebbles will hurt the underbelly of the crocodile thus, making this type of habitat unfriendly to them.

Amazingly, Suzali team encountered many species of animal and birds. Some of the birds seen were the Black, Helmeted and Rhinoceros Hornbills, dusky grey heron, Chinese egrets, rufus-tailed Shama, Barred Eagle-owl and oriental darters. The common mammals encountered were wild pigs, mouse deer, sambar deer, orangutans, macaques, squirrel, tortoise, monitor lizards and tracks of elephant and Tembadau or banteng (wild cattle). The most unfortunate finding was two camps about four months old belonging to persons looking for ‘geharu’ or sandal wood. This has been reported to the Forestry and Wildlife departments.

Suzali and his team made another expedition to the same area from 5th – 15th December 2005. A SOS Rhino volunteer, Marc David Bowden joined the team for this survey. Marc has experienced an aching back on the 10th and was sent back to Dagat village by Suzali and Erman. No rhino track was found but many species of animal were encountered. Some animals observed but not seen during the November expedition were the sunbear, black bittern, silvered langur, snake, grey leaf monkey, kingfishers, barking deer, grackle and black crows.

Amit Pilik
RPU 3 Team Leader

Amit Pilik led his team to KM42 from 5th – 15th December 2005. For the whole period, his team was working in heavy rain. No rhino track was found but several species of animal were encountered. They are the wild pigs, jungle fowl, peacock, sambar deer, python and hoof prints of elephant and orang-utan nests.


SOS Rhino (Borneo) has recruited another three new Field Assistants. They are Wilfred Yuya, Martino Minggo and Lukas Julius. They were interviewed by our new Field Coordinator. Basically, all new recruits undergo a 3-month probation period. During this time, they will be assessed for discipline, jungle experience and attitude towards the job. They must also be able to work with other team members. The team leaders are responsible to train them while the assessment will be done by the Program Officer during his field excursion.

SOS Rhino is fortunate to have the support of EAZA to fund our Rhino Protection Units (RPUs) and Community Outreach Program (COP). Tabin reserve is the largest wildlife reserve in Malaysia. It is the probably the last bastion of the Sumatran rhino of Borneo. Thus, protecting the reserve is of paramount importance. Both the RPUs and COP are important components in this respect. To effectively protect the reserve, we need at least nine RPUs. With this new funding, we will have five RPUs comprising 25 persons, starting January 2006. Mobility of RPUs is crucial. Thus, with funding from US Fish and Wildlife Services, we will have two new vehicles, making a total of four. We now have four base camps located in the north, west and southeast of the reserve. We hope to establish another two camps in the east in 2006.

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