June 13, 2006

Conservationists Get Rare Glimpse of Borneo Rhino

GENEVA -- The first photograph of a member of a nearly extinct species of rhinoceros has been taken in the remote rainforests of Borneo, conservationists said on Wednesday.

The Sumatra rhino, whose picture was caught by a motion-triggered camera trap, is believed to be one of as few as 13 whose existence was confirmed in Borneo by a field survey last year, the Sabah Wildlife Department and global conservation group WWF said.

The cameras are part of a protection effort launched in late 2005 to monitor the rhinos and defend them from poachers. Rhino horn, mainly sold for use in traditional Asian medicines, carries a high price on the black market.

"This is an encouraging sign for the future of rhinoceros conservation work in Sabah," said Mahedi Andau, director of the Sabah Wildlife Department in northern Borneo, in a statement.

The rhinos in Borneo live deep in dense jungle and are rarely seen. There are only some 300 left in the world, mostly on the Malaysian peninsular and in Sumatra.

"We hope to take more photos in coming months so that we can piece together clues about this tiny, precarious population," said Raymond Aflred, a WWF project manager.