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Jakarta Post

Critically endangered Sumatran rhino dies weeks after discovery


    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, April 6, 2016   /  05:52 pm
Critically endangered Sumatran rhino dies weeks after discovery A female Sumatran rhino called Najaq is captured by a camera trap wallowing in mud on March 12 in this photo released by WWF Indonesia. Najaq died on Tuesday as a result of a severe infection on her leg. ( Indonesia)

A critically endangered Sumatran rhino found was found dead on Tuesday in West Kutai, East Kalimantan, just weeks after its existence was discovered in March.

The death of the 10-year-old female rhino, called Najaq, is suspected to be due to septicemia caused by a leg wound that turned septic after the rhino was caught in a snare in September 2015, said a team of veterinarians from the Forestry and Environment Ministry, World Wild Fund (WWF) Indonesia, Taman Safari Indonesia, the Indonesian Rhino Foundation (YBI) and the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB).

The team suspected that shreds of the nylon snare had remained in Najaq’s leg, causing an infection, according to a press statement.

A postmortem examination may be conducted to determine the exact cause of death.

Najaq was first caught on camera in late October 2015 with her left leg entangled in a snare. The team searched for and captured Najaq on March 12 and removed the snare from her leg and treated her with antibiotics and vitamins, the statement said.

The team also consulted international rhino experts from Australia Zoo, Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, and US-based Cornell University.

As Najaq’s condition started to improve, so too did her appetite, team member Muhamamd Agil said. However, the infection on her leg worsened and her health deteriorated until she died early Tuesday morning.

"She responded positively to the treatment given by the team of doctors. But her wound was severe and became infected," Agil said on Tuesday.

The director general of natural resources and ecosystem conservation at the Environment Ministry, Tachrir Fathoni, said Najaq's death was a lesson learned in the protection of rhino populations in West Kutai.

"Najaq's death shows that Sumatran rhinos still exist in Kalimantan, whereas we thought it there were none left here," he said.

Another lesson learned was the need to be extra careful in managing the conservation of Sumatran rhinos, which have unique behaviors, YABI executive director Widodo Ramono said.

West Kutai Regent Ismail Thomas expressed concern over Najaq's death and vowed to facilitate programs to protect rhinos in the area.

WWF Indonesia survey team first identified Najaq from footprints found in West Kutai in  2013. A camera trap confirmed her existence by capturing footage of her wallowing in mud in mid-2013. Previously, the team of researchers assumed Najaq to be 5 years old from her body measurement.

However, a dental check confirmed that Najaq was 10 years old.

The Sumatran rhino is one of two rhino species in the archipelago. Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered, with a population of less than 100, mostly on mainland Sumatra. (rin)

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