Critically-ill Sumatran rhino Puntung on road to recovery following surgery


KOTA KINABALU: Puntung, one of three remaining Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia which was reported to be critically-ill last month, is recovering following surgery this morning.

Sabah Wildlife department director Augustine Tuuga said the female rhino underwent a two-and-a-half hour operation to extract two molars and a premolar from the upper left side of her jaw, which had been causing a severe abscess.

The surgery was performed by veterinary dentist Dr Tum Chinkangsadarn from Thailand, who found that the source of the abscess was a formation caused by an accumulation of bacteria on the severely-calcified molars.

The calcification also loosened two adjacent teeth.

For the past two weeks, Puntung had not shown any signs of recovery, despite being administered antibiotics.

"This was a remarkable and successful operation that came about as a result of global discussion and multi-national collaboration over the past two weeks.

"Sabah thanks Dr Tum and the team who did a fantastic job, as well as Dr Abraham Mathew, senior veterinarian at the Singapore Zoo, who had helped with anaesthesia," Augustine said in a statement, adding that the department was also assisted and supported by South Africa's ‘Saving the Survivors’, the Wildlife and National Parks department in Peninsular Malaysia and the Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora).

He added that the procedure began at 7am, with X-rays taken under sedation for 110 minutes.

"She started feeding two hours after the operation.

"But we are not done yet, as there will be a period of post-operation care, by keeping Puntung clean, stress-free and medicated, including for pain relief," Augustine added.

Puntung, along with female rhino, Iman, and male, Kertam, are being cared for by Bora at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Lahad Datu.