Cancer-stricken Sumatran rhino Puntung put down


KOTA KINABALU: Puntung, the Sumatran female rhinoceros that attracted global attention in recent months, was euthanised early this morning at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) director Augustine Tuuga said Puntung’s keepers Wilson Kuntil, Hassan Sani and Samad Gubin had been sleeping for the past week with Puntung in her forest paddock to ensure she was under close observation round the clock.

“The carcinoma had been growing rapidly in size and there were clear signs that Puntung was experiencing significant breathing difficulties.

“In consultation with our rhino reproduction advisers at Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, and others, the decision was taken to end her growing discomfort and bring forward the planned date of the procedure.

“Previously, we were targeting June 15,” he said in a statement here today.

Tuuga said in pursuit of allowing Puntung to contribute to the survival of her species, her ovaries were rushed to the Agro-Biotechnology Institute in Serdang, Selangor.

“Simultaneously, Indonesian reproductive specialist Prof Arief Boediono came from Jakarta, ready to recover any egg cells that might be present.

“If any oocytes can be retrieved and matured, frozen sperm from the male rhino Tam will be thawed for intracytoplasmic sperm injection by Prof Arief.

“We will know the outcome within a few days,” he said.

Puntung had been suffering since mid-March from an abscess inside her upper jaw that would not heal despite treatment.

The rhino attracted global attention in April this year through dental surgery performed by a multi-national team in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

She was one of the last three Sumatran rhinos in the country. Now, there are only two left.