Survival of species may rest with captured rhino

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The Independent Online

Malaysian wildlife authorities have captured a female Sumatran rhino, which they plan to pair with a new mate in a breeding program meant to save the species from extinction.

The plan is the cornerstone of efforts to preserve the bristly, snub-nosed animal, which once ranged from India to China but whose numbers have fallen to fewer than 40 in the jungles of Borneo island.

Officials have spent more than three years seeking a suitable mate for a middle-aged male rhino named Tam, who was rescued in Malaysia's eastern Sabah state in 2008 while wandering in an oil palm plantation with an infected leg, probably caused by a poacher's trap. The first potential mate found for Tam was too old to reproduce.

The Sabah Wildlife Department said rangers had captured a young female rhino nicknamed Puntung, who they had been monitoring in the wild for several years.

The department's director, Laurentius Ambu, said: "This is a fantastic gift for our uphill battle in ensuring the survival of this truly unique species. This is now the very last chance to save this species, one of the most ancient forms of mammal."