Dire straits: Malaysia could lose Puntung, one of its last three Sumatran rhinos

OLIVIA MIWIL


KOTA KINABALU: Rescuers have resorted to handfeeding Puntung, one of the last remaining Sumatran rhinoceros, as it has shown no signs of recovery.

It was reported on Wednesday that Puntung has an abscess inside her upper jaw and she was not responding to antibiotic treatment.

Sabah Wildlife department director Augustine Tuuga said the mammal has been sick the past week, and spends most of the time wallowing. She has not been eating much in the past few days.

“When Puntung leaves her wallow at night, she will be handfed with some browse, bananas and mangoes in the forest paddock, up to midnight.

“The veterinarian said she was more perky today but only ate 5kg of browse last night,” he said when contacted today, adding that average daily consumption of browse should be around 15kg but in this instance, even 5kg of browse is fine as it will be able to sustain Puntung for about 38 hours.

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

The team had also initially plan to conduct an x-ray scan on Puntung’s wound but this could only be done if she was in her enclosure. As she has taken to spending her time wallowing, the team can only wait.

They had also spotted intermittent bleeding on her left nostril yesterday. Her infection is believed to be deep and could spread further, which might lead to sepsis and eventually death.

Augustine added they have been in constant communication with experts experienced in managing dental and facial damage for rhinos to discuss on the best course of treatment for Puntung.

“Augmentin (a type of antibiotic) treatment and dextrose fluid are still continued besides supplements being added in her food.

“Other types of antibiotic such as Amoxyclav and Enroflaxacin were discussed as an alternative but we are concerned about the lack of studies on the effects of these drugs on rhinos.”

Puntung’s condition is a grave concern for many as she is one of the last rhinos in Malaysia. In Indonesia, only a handful of Sumatran rhinoceros are left.