Talks with Indonesia to save rhinos get under way

Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew (seated third from right) had a meeting with Indonesian Consul-General Krishna Djelani (seated second from right) and several others in her office in Kota Kinabalu yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: Efforts to revive talks on the conservation of the Sumatran rhino between Malaysia and Indonesia are well under way with preliminary discussions taking place between four parties here yesterday.

The meeting was convened to discuss the implementation of provisions of the draft memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Conservation of the Sumatran Rhinoceros at the state tourism, culture and environment ministry.

Besides the ministry, others present were the Indonesian consulate-general here Krishna Djelani, and representatives from the Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora) and the World Wide Fund for Nature — Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia).

Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew chaired the meeting, which also deliberated on the implementation arrangement (IA) between the Indonesian environment and forestry ministry, and the water, land and natural resources ministry here.

This concerned the collaborative programme on the application of assisted reproductive technology on the Sumatran rhinoceros (ART-SR).

Thanking Krishna for his advice and suggestions, Liew said she was pleased that both countries are equally committed to wildlife conservation efforts to prevent the extinction of the Sumatran rhinos, one of the world’s most endangered species.

Krishna was accompanied by Consul M Muhsinin Dolisada (consular division) and Cahyono Rustam (social-cultural division).

In this regard, the Sabah tourism, culture and environment minister said she will lead a Sabah delegation to Indonesia next month to meet the Indonesian authorities on the MoU.

“Clarity of the stipulated terms and conditions is essential. We will fine-tune some of the articles and clauses of the MoU to ensure there are no ‘open-ended’ clauses that could give rise to disputes in future in the implementation of its provisions.

“We will also further define the arrangements for shared ownership of the Sumatran rhinos born or produced in captive breeding in Indonesia,” Liew said, adding the MoU will be signed soon if everything goes as planned.

Iman, Malaysia’s last surviving female Sumatran rhino kept at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu, is reportedly sick with massive uterine fibroids.

At the meeting, Bora’s executive chairman Abdul Hamid Ahmad, executive director Junaidi Payne and head veterinarian-cum-field coordinator Zainal Zahari Zainuddin provided useful input on ART-SR.

They presented their professional views on semen collection and preservation, ovum harvesting from Iman, skin cell cultures, application of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), embryo (fertilised ovum) preservation and embryo transfer to a rhino surrogate mother.

Meanwhile, Liew welcomed WWF-Malaysia’s desire to financially support the rhino breeding programme within the framework of the MoU.

“Apart from potential donations, we will execute a mechanism to raise funds,” said WWF-Malaysia conservation director Henry Chan, from its head office in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Tuesday’s meeting was a follow-up on the experts meeting on the Conservation of Sumatran Rhinoceros between Malaysia and Indonesia, held in Sandakan last April 4.

The Malaysian delegation was led by Biodiversity Management and Forestry Division undersecretary (under the water, land and natural resources ministry) Wan Mazlan Wan Mahmood.

The Indonesian delegation was led by conservation biodiversity director, under Indonesia’s environment and forestry ministry, Indra Exploitasia.