Sumatran Rhino Conservation through disease surveillance and community engagement
Given the number of different domestic animal species living in close proximity to the natural habitat and sanctuary for Sumatran rhinos in Borneo, understanding what diseases the domestic species have and how they may transmit to rhinos is of utmost importance.
Part of the goal of the Bornean project is to identify fecal and blood parasites from livestock in the areas surrounding the national parks in which Sumatran rhinos have been documented to live. Fecal Trichostrongylus, Paramphistomum, eimeria and ascaris as well as blood Trypanosomes are some examples of parasites which are of relevance.
We traveled to 7 rural villages in East Kalimantan. During our trips we not only participated in ongoing culture exchange between ourselves and our gracious hosts, but also conducted our parasite surveillance project, gave presentations about the Sumatran rhino, conservation, and applicable environmental concerns, and administered rabies vaccinations to dogs and cats.
Our education presentations included lessons about the different rhinos from around the world, the illegal pet trade, trash, sanitation, and the importance of protecting water systems and forests. We also partnered with an Indonesian
Education group Sekala Petualang who provided engaging and fun lesson plans and activities. It was during these presentations and games that we most recognized how valuable our lessons were at Cornell learning Bahasa Indonesia, the Indonesian language, because our involvement with the children relied on our language capabilities.
Conservation Efforts and Future Outlook
The primary goals related to Sumatran rhino conservation in Bornean are 3-fold:
1) Capture and Relocation
Given how few sumatran rhinos there are estimated to be living in Borneo (a massive area), NGOs are collaborating in a collective effort to capture and relocate the remaining rhinos to sanctuaries
2) Improve Reproductive Success in Captivity
The reproductive life of sumatran rhinos is unique but unfortunately sensitive to many factors which we don't entirely understand. Behavioral modification is being implemented in order to assist with inducing ovulation of female sumatran rhinos and other techniques such as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization are being studied.
3) Improve Public Awareness
Educating the public on the existence of sumatran rhinos is essential - many people around the world and even in Borneo and the villages surrounding rhino habitat don't actually know that they exist.
Local communities must be encouraged to protect their environment from the continuous threat of deforestation and natural resource exploitation if there is to be a home for sumatran rhinos in the future.
Past Research Projects
Check out the only Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesian Borneo and the new home of PAHU the Sumatran Rhino!