The terminal condition faced by Puntung, should be a lesson to all off the dire straits facing Sumatran rhinoceros. (courtesy of Sabah Wildlife Department)

KUALA LUMPUR: The terminal condition faced by Puntung, should be a lesson to all off the dire straits facing Sumatran rhinoceros.

Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) Chairman Tun Musa Hitam, in expressing his regret and sorrow about Puntung’s condition, said those related to the conservation efforts should reflect on the present situation.

“After spending so much time and funding to conserve the Sumatran rhinoceros since 2009, I regret that it has come to this and let this be a lesson to all those related to the efforts as well as the world at large.

“This is a very sad development. Future generations would certainly blame us for failing to save this species from extinction,” Musa said today.

Puntung, one of the three remaining Sumatran rhinoceros in Malaysia, is suffering from a squamous cell carcinoma in her left cheek.

It is learnt that the cancer is spreading rapidly and Puntung will not survive much longer, even with treatment.

The state government has authorised euthanasia on Puntung, after deliberation with experts.

YSD had worked with the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) and the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) to save the Sumatran rhinoceros in Sabah over the past eight years up to February this year, including the rescue, translocation and care of Puntung, with an allocation of RM13.8 million.

With Puntung’s death imminent, there will only be two Sumatran rhinoceros left in Malaysia.

BORA Executive Director Dr John Payne, as of yesterday, Puntung can no longer breathe through her left nostril nor vocalise. She is in pain and her condition is declining rapidly.

“This is devastating news for all of those who have been involved in Puntung’s life over the past ten years, from those in SOS Rhino who monitored her wild in the Tabin forests since 2007, those who captured her in 2011 and those who cared for her daily and still care for her right up to now,” he said.

He added that BORA’s staff, who have had Puntung under intensive care over the past two months, have been shocked by the very visible rapid growth in the size of the carcinoma.

From 2009 to February 2017, YSD had spent RM13.8 million towards conserving the Sumatran rhinoceros, with funds channeled towards an artificial reproductive technology (ART) programme to help breed the Sumatran rhinoceros and help save the species from extinction.

Currently, the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve is caring for two female Sumatran rhinoceros – Puntung and Iman – as well as a male rhino – Tam.

Since 2009, YSD has committed RM131 million towards the protection of high conservation value ecosystems, vulnerable and endangered species as well as initiatives promoting the preservation of the environment and biodiversity.