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WWF Captures First Image Of Wild Rhino In Borneo

A white rhino is photographed by a motion-triggered camera trap in a jungle in Sabah state. The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) said it used a camera "trap" to capture the first-ever images of the critically endagered wild rhino in the Borneo jungles. Photo courtesy of WWF and AFP.
by Staff Writers
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) Jun 13, 2006
The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) said Tuesday it used a camera "trap" to capture the first-ever images of the critically endangered wild rhino in the Borneo jungles. The rhino is believed to be one of a population of just 13 whose existence was confirmed last year in a remote part of Malaysia's Sabah state, it said.

Very few other rhinos are believed to survive elsewhere in Borneo.

"The rhinos in Sabah spend their lives in dense jungle where they are rarely seen, which accounts for the lack of any previous photographs of them in the wild," it said in a statement.

WWF said that the motion-triggered camera trap was part of conservation efforts aimed at boosting the number of Sumatran rhinos through studying their needs, preventing poaching and conserving habitat.

"This is an encouraging sign for the future of rhinoceros conservation work in Sabah," said Mahedi Andau, director of the Sabah Wildlife Department.

"While the total number of Borneo rhinos remaining is uncertain, we do know there are very, very few. To capture a photo of one just a few months after placing camera traps in the area is extraordinary," he said.

WWF said that a handful of rhinos are thought to survive in Sabah in addition to the 13, scattered across the state but isolated from each other. Sabah and Sarawak make up Malaysia's half of Borneo which is divided with Indonesia.

Apart from the Sabah population, there have been no confirmed reports of the species on Borneo for almost 20 years, leading experts to fear that rhinos may now be extinct on the rest of the island.

"These are very shy animals that are almost never seen alive in the wild," said Raymond Alfred from WWF-Malaysia.

The photo showed that the rhino was a mature and healthy animal which had access to plentiful, good-quality forage in the forest, he said.

"We hope to take more photos over the coming months of other rhinos so we can piece together clues about this tiny, precarious population," he said.

Borneo's rhinos are considered to be a subspecies of the Sumatran rhinoceros, different to those found in Indonesia's Sumatra island and Peninsular Malaysia.

The Sumatran rhinoceros is one of the world's most critically endangered species, and its existence is threatened by poaching and loss of forest habitat.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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