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  SOS Rhino : In the News : News From The Field : RHINO PROTECTION UNITS OR RPUs
  The Rhino Protection Unit or popularly called RPU is the pillar of Sumatran rhino conservation in Sabah, Malaysia. When rhinos are found in a habitat, it must be protected at all cost otherwise, other activities for the species become irrelevant. Poaching is a problem but it can be controlled by having strong, dedicated, committed and responsible person or persons. The Sabah Wildlife Department is training and appointing our RPU members as Honorary Wildlife Wardens. Honorary Wildlife Warden has the same power as wildlife officer. To tackle rhino poaching is indeed a very challenging task as the horns are lucrative and valuable trophies.

Presently, SOS Rhino (Borneo) has three RPUs consisting of 15 persons. Each RPU is led by a Team Leader and four Field Assistants. There are four base camps – two in the north, one in the west and another one in the southeast part of the reserve. To effectively protect the 120500 hectares Tabin reserve, at least nine RPUs are required.

To train an RPU is expensive. The pre-requisite to be a member of RPU is jungle-wise. They must know jungle survival, map reading, rhino behavior, data collection, collecting and preserving samples, take photographs and the use of GPS and compass. They must also know how to drive or motor a boat, repair and maintain engines and other field equipments. They must also know how to take care of the volunteers and researchers.

Our RPU members are very young boys. They come from the local communities around rhino habitat, and from villages where the pastime is hunting. One of the most daunting tasks is to convert them into conservationists, not just in theory but practicing it to the latter. They are already a master of the jungle. The work is tough and turn-over is also high. Only those who love the job and the wilderness will persist.

The RPUs have now started the rhino survey to re-assess the population density of rhino in Tabin reserve. They have by the end of October 2005, to complete six long north-south transects. When the survey proper is implemented, about 70% of the reserve will be covered. RPU 3 is also involved in constructing their base camp on the southeastern part of the reserve.

RPU member must be healthy and fit

RPU member is a skillful boatman

RPU members are active in sports

RPU members patrolling the Segama river

RPU members construction a base camp

RPU members with volunteers – always learning

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