Thu, Apr 22, 2010 - Page 4 News List

Rare Borneo rhino may be pregnant, official says

AFP , KUALA LUMPUR

Malaysian conservationists caught on film a Sumatran rhinoceros thought to be pregnant, raising hopes that the critically endangered species on Borneo island was breeding in the wild, an official said yesterday.

A remotely controlled camera set up in a forest in Sabah state on Borneo captured a still picture of the rhino on Feb. 25, Raymond Alfred of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said.

It is the first such image in the wild of a female thought to be pregnant, providing cheer to conservationists after the initial failure of a breeding-in-captivity program for the Borneo Sumatran rhino, whose numbers are believed to have dwindled to less than 30.

“The size [of the rhino] is quite extraordinary,” Alfred said.

“Based on the shape and the size of the body and stomach,” it would appear that the rhino is pregnant, he said.

However, it is difficult to be conclusive on the basis of the picture alone, he said.

Another 50 cameras have been set up in the area to gather more evidence about the female, which appears to be 20 years old, he said, adding that researchers were also trying to find its dung for analysis.

Government officials and WWF experts had set up the first camera in January and retrieved it last week, Alfred said.

The picture shows the Borneo Sumatran rhino wallowing in the soil to cool off and protect her body.

“The most important thing now is to ensure that this area is protected from logging activity,” he said, declining to disclose the rhino’s exact whereabouts.

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