Surviving rhino populations are being intensively protected by anti-poaching patrol teams, which have proved very effective at reducing illegal poaching. The teams are also involved in monitoring rhino populations, with the information gathered being used by the Indonesian and Malaysian governments to develop effective management programmes. Some of these programmes have involved creating breeding sanctuaries where the rhinos can be protected and maintained under conditions most suitable for reproductive success. The governments are assisted in their work by several national and international conservation organisations which are also restoring habitat in heavily encroached areas.
The IUCN/SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group (AsRSG), the co-ordinating body for rhino conservation work, has developed an Action Plan for conservating this species. This plan recognises the importance of involving local communities in their work, so that they can learn about the rhino's plight and benefit from its conservation. Such communities are also being encouraged to adopt sustainable methods by which they can effectively manage natural resources without causing further harm to the rhino or its habitat. In addition to these measures, conservation groups are trying to reduce the demand for rhino horn by conducting awareness campaigns in consumer countries, and investigating possible alternatives to rhino horn in traditional medicine. At present, all trade in rhino horn is prohibited, and the extent of illegal trade is investigated by TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade monitoring network of the WWF and IUCN).
The Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) is currently implementing two courses of action to stop the Sumatran rhino from drifting to extinction, and to initiate a trajectory of increasing rhino numbers: the first is to have zero poaching and trapping of rhinos anywhere in Sabah, and the second action consists of a “Rhino Rescue Programme” and establishment of a “Borneo Rhino Sanctuary” in Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The Borneo Rhino Sanctuary will be developed as a large fenced area inside Tabin Wildlife Reserve, to be populated by rhinos translocated from sites where they are not breeding. The small population of rhinos in Tabin and Borneo Rhino Sanctuary will be managed in an attempt to boost the breeding rate, as well as to prevent the death of rhinos by illegal hunting and trapping.
All of the above initiatives need to be reinforced and expanded. Existing rhino populations are in need of more protection, and additional habitat should be made available once numbers start increasing. In particular, habitat corridors should be created to allow individuals passage between currently isolated populations. Captive breeding has proved notoriously difficult for this species, but the recent births of Sumatran rhinos at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Sumatra and Cincinnati Zoo has created a fresh impetus for this approach. Many groups argue that captive management of the species in sanctuaries is the best way forward.
In addition to work on protecting the rhino and eliminating illegal trade in rhino horn, surveys of rhino habitat should be carried out immediately in areas of where there have been unconfirmed sightings (such as Kalimantan). The rhino population is so critically low that any currently unprotected populations require immediate attention. Only a few fertile breeding adults are left, and is it becoming more unlikely that these animals will ever come into contact with mates with which to reproduce. Monitoring and intervention is needed to prevent inbreeding of existing populations, which has the potential to make them more vulnerable to factors such as disease or deleterious mutations.
Conservation geneticist: Wildgenes laboratory
International Rhino Foundation
The IRF was founded in 1993 in response to the global crisis in rhino conservation. The IRF is a collaborative conservation initiative providing technical, administrative and financial services and support for scientific research and intensive management for both captive and wild rhinos. IRF has from its inception concentrated its Asian Programs on the Sumatran rhino, probably the most endangered of all rhino species and is actively involved in maintaining the International Studbook for the Sumatran rhino.
Save the Rhino International
Save the Rhino International works to conserve genetically viable populations of critically endangered rhinoceros species in the wild. Our aim is to increase rhino numbers by providing financial and in-kind support for rhino projects and for community-based initiatives.
The rhino is one of WWF flagship species, acting as an ambassador and highlighting the need for conserving the habitats in which they live. WWF works across the globe and aims to tackle the main threats facing rhino by strengthening protected areas in Asia, lobbying to halt the illegal timber trade, and stamping out the illegal trade in horn.
Rhino Resource Centre
The Rhino Resource Center is committed to assisting research and conservation of the rhinoceros worldwide by collecting all publications and maintaining archives. The website provides data on all published work on each of the five species of rhinoceros.
BORA is a local NGO based in Sabah. Active since the year 2000, and formerly known as SOS Rhino and subsequently SOS Rhino Borneo, BORA provides protection and monitoring of a critical population of Sumatran Rhinos in Tabin Wildlife Reserve in eastern Sabah.
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