As the Sumatran rhino's numbers continue to plummet headlong towards extinction, conservation officials have been in a race against time to find a breeding pair to spearhead their long-term preservation. Three years ago, wildlife authorities on the island of Borneo discovered a suitable male rhino, though finding him a mate proved no easy task. With fewer than forty of the endangered animals remaining and hope at a premium, Melanesian rhino-couplers announced recently that, after years of searching, a young female rhino had finally been found to assist in the effort of saving her species.
In 2008, a male Sumatran rhino, named Tam, was captured after being injured by a poacher's trap on in the state of Sabah in Malaysia. Since then, he's been kept by the Sabah Wildlife Department in hopes of one day creating a successful captive rhino breeding program. Previously a female had been found to mate with Tam, but she proved too old to produce offspring.
But now, with the species' prospects of survival seeming increasingly slim, the discovery of a young female Sumatran rhino, named Puntung by her capturers, has renewed hopes for the breeding program, reports The Telegraph:
No other rhino had been observed near Puntung in years, underscoring that there were so few left in the wild that they had few opportunities to meet and reproduce, said Junaidi Payne, executive director of the Borneo Rhino Alliance, a nongovernment group that works with Sabah's government on rhino protection.
The statement did not disclose Puntung's exact age. Tam is known to be more than 20 years old.
"This is a fantastic gift for our uphill battle in ensuring the survival of this truly unique species," said the rhino breeding program's director, Laurentius Ambu. "This is now the very last chance to save this species, one of the most ancient forms of mammal."