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Jakarta Post

Authorities, activists to find new home for Sumatran rhinos

  • N. Adri

    The Jakarta Post

Balikpapan   /   Tue, September 22, 2015   /  06:13 pm
Authorities, activists to find new home for Sumatran rhinos Rare sighting: A two-horned Sumatran rhino is captured by a WWF trap camera at a forest in Damai district, West Kutai regency, East Kalimantan. The rhino is thought to be a female aged between six and eight years, weighing about 750 kilograms. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the rhino as a critically endangered species.(Courtesy of WWF)

Rare sighting: A two-horned Sumatran rhino is captured by a WWF trap camera at a forest in Damai district, West Kutai regency, East Kalimantan. The rhino is thought to be a female aged between six and eight years, weighing about 750 kilograms. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the rhino as a critically endangered species.(Courtesy of WWF)

Local authorities and activists have agreed to initiate a joint effort to relocate eight Sumatran rhinoceroses spotted in a production forest in West Kutai, East Kalimantan.

The animals will be moved to a nearby conservation forest in an attempt to provide the critically endangered species with a safer environment in which to live and reproduce.

The initiative was taken on Monday during a multi-stakeholder meeting in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, during which experts known for their success in preserving critically endangered Javan and Sumatran rhinos were also present.

Environment and Forestry Ministry director general for ecosystem and natural resource conservation Tachrir Fathoni said the relocation efforts were expected to begin by the end of this year and be complete by November 2016. '€œAll matters relating to the preservation of rhinos in Kalimantan were prepared in the meeting so they can be immediately implemented,'€ he said.

The two-horned rhinos were first detected in a production forest near Besiq village in Damai district, West Kutai, in early 2013. It was the first confirmed report of the existence of the species in Kalimantan in the previous 43 years.

'€œThe rhinos are currently living in a 10,000 hectare site, located among a coal mine, a production forest and oil palm plantations,'€ World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia conservation director Arnold Sitompul said.

West Kutai regional administration secretary Meril Elisa said the rhinos would be transferred to a 5,000-hectare conservation forest in Linggang Bigung district, located some 60 kilometers north of their current home.

'€œThe protected forest is connected to an untouched, primary forest of hundreds of thousands of hectares,'€ Meril said.

West Kutai Regent Ismael Thomas, according to Meril, has also issued a circular asking local communities and companies maintaining land bordering the species'€™ habitat to participate in maintaining and supporting the efforts to save the animals.

Indonesia is home to the world'€™s two most endangered rhino species, the Javan rhinoceros and Sumatran rhinoceros. The two species have been on the brink of extinction mainly due to illegal hunting for their horns, which are used to produce high-priced commodities, like jewelry and souvenirs.

Sugeng, a member of a joint research team that has studied forests in Damai district for the past two years, said rhino poaching in Kalimantan was last reported in 1970.

From 1970 to 1996, no local people were reported to have spotted rhinos or found any trace of their existence.

Since 1996, stories emanating from the Kalimantan hinterland of people spotting traces of rhinos on the ground and scratches on trees left by rhinos had begun to emerge.

After learning of the rumors, local authorities and experts, with support from WWF Indonesia, deployed in 2013 a team to confirm the reports. The joint monitoring team installed 200 cameras in a production forest near Besiq.

'€œI once spotted two individuals, a female and a baby rhino, which I clearly saw,'€ Sugeng said.

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