Research & Conservation for Sumatran Rhinoceros in Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Conservation of the highly endangered Bornean sub-species of the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis harrissoni) was a key consideration in the gazettement of Tabin Wildlife Reserve (JHL photo right). Rhinoceros surveys had been done during 1980, 1982, 1983, 1986 by Dr. J. Payne and Sabah Government Wildlife staff and since 1988 the Sabah Wildlife Department (Jabatan Hidupan Liar; JHL) has undertaken surveys.

There is a breeding population estimated at 10-20 individuals. Only 30 may still exist in Borneo.

Currently JHL is spearheading a cooperative rhino research and conservation program in Tabin that also involves resources and support from the WWF, SOS Rhino and the Singapore Zoological Gardens (SZG) Wildlife Conservation Fund (WCF). The rhino team includes a local Program Officer, research students, a veterinarian, 12 Field Assistants, Volunteers, and field scientists.

The team detected a mother and calf during 2001 and their rangers are also assisting in anti-poaching activities. The SZG raised funds for the building of an SOS Rhino research station at Tabin and is building a research station for rhino scientists and researchers. This augments a scientists’ lodge built in Tabin by Trekforce in 2001.

The work in Tabin is complemented by breeding research being done at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and in Borneo-wide programs of WWF, SOS Rhino and the JHL. For example the WWF AREAS program is developing a framework for the operation of Rhino Protection Units (RPU) together with the JHL. These programs include efforts to quantify rhino populations throughout their range, to rescue any rhinos that come into conflict with humans activities and to undertake all possible initiatives necessary to keep the dwindling rhino population from lapsing into extinction.

The SOS Rhino Team suffered a tragic loss with the death of Dr. Annelisa M. Kilbourn (SOS Rhino photo, left) in an airplane crash in Gabon on Nov. 2, 2003.

“Dr. Anna” was a much loved and admired person around Tabin. Her work is cited several times in this guide.

Please link to the Annelisa Tribute on the SOS Rhino site and take time to pay tribute to this outstanding lady.