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THE capture of a healthy female rhino last week was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
So elusive are the species that many experts will vouch that seeing one in the wild in their lifetime would be like a dream.
Soon after Puntung was airlifted out of the 120,000ha-Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah State Wildlife director Dr Laurentius Ambu called the capture a "Christmas miracle": that plus the fact there is a stud waiting in Lahad Datu, Kertam, which was caught in 2008.
This has triggered off international interest in helping the pair produce an offspring, naturally or artificially, to ensure the survival of the species.
The Borneo Rhino Alliance, Sime Darby Foundation, Worldwildlife Fund, Malaysian Palm Oil Council and Berlin's Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research have all stepped up to the plate to assist.
The odds are stacked against the effort though.
Dr Laurentius said: "Some adult rhinos have been known to be infertile. The sperm count on males were too low while on the females, their ovaries were covered by cyst formations."
Since 1984, 43 Sumatran rhinos have been caught in Malaysia and Indonesia but none have bred.
Only one pair has produced three offsprings via artificial insemination at the Cincinatti Zoo in the US.
Everyone remains hopeful. Early this year, the Sumatran Rhinoceros Global Management and Propagation Board was convened by top experts. It was decided that Sabah would be receptive to all reproductive options that science could provide.
Only 30 or so rhinos are left in the jungles of Sabah, making it the most endangered wildlife species in the country.
Since 1996, the Sumatran Rhino has been listed as Critically Endangered, one step away from extinction in the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List.
"Giving up is not an option," Dr Laurentius said. He pointed out that two reproductive measures were now on top of their list.
Dr Laurentius also revealed they would be doing genetic resource banking via cryo-preservation of semen, oocytes, ovarian tissue and embryos.
"We will stick to the guideline. For now, active intervention seems best as this was how it was done by the Cincinatti Zoo."
This means that sperm will be collected from Kertam and inseminated into Puntung, They are both aged between 10 and 15 years old.
The matchmakers do not plan to allow the two to meet for now as they may not be compatible.
"We don't have the luxury of time," Dr Laurentius said.
The gestation period for rhinos is about 19 to 20 months and each female can get pregnant four to five times at most.
The department's Wildlife Rescue Unit and BORA have been tasked with looking after Puntung, which appears to be adjusting well to her new surroundings in an enclosure near where Kertam is kept in Tabin.
State department chief veterinarian Dr Sen Nathan said Puntung was feeding well and that she was allowing people to get closer.
Puntung was captured in a fixed trap on Dec 18.
Dr Sen said Puntung was first detected five years ago and had been closely monitored by rangers via remote cameras placed in the forest.
Rhinos are shy solitary animals that stay within its own zone and this helps conservationists keep track of its route and routine, he explained.