5 Animals to See in Sabah Before It’s Too Late
About a month ago, we received a very sad news – Puntung, one of the remaining three Sumatran rhinos in Sabah, has died. She was suffering from squamous cell cancer and has to be euthanised. Puntung was one of three Sumatran rhinos in captivity in Sabah, with her species considered to be extinct in the wild.
Puntung has earlier caught international attention due to a life threatening abscess. An international group of veterinarians gathered in Malaysia to help with her condition, and has removed three of her teeth. The procedure was thought to have saved her life. Unfortunately, it was later discovered that Puntung was suffering from squamous cell cancer and has to be euthanised in the end.
With more and more animals being endangered and forced to extinction, here is a list of 5 animals to see in Sabah before it’s too late.
Puntung is one of the last three Sumatran rhinoceros in Malaysia (Sabah, specifically). The Sumatran rhinoceros is critically endangered, and thought to have less than 100 left in the wild. In Malaysia, there are only two left in captivity, with the demise of Puntung. They are being kept in Tabin Wildlife Reserve, located in Lahad Datu.
Borneo Pygmy Elephant
The pygmy elephant or Borneo elephant is a particularly “cute” species due to its smaller body as compared to elephants of other species. Borneo’s pygmy elephants are genetically distinct from other Asian elephants, smaller with relatively larger ears, more rotund, with longer tails and straighter tusks. It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and is said to number around 1500, mostly in central and east part of Sabah.
The orangutan is one of the more well-known species of the extant great ape, currently found in only the rain forests of Borneo and Sumatra. They are considered to be one of the most intelligent primates which have extensive learning abilities. They are both critically endangered according to the IUCN Red List of mammals due to the loss of habitat caused by rapid development and deforestation by humans. Luckily, several dedicated organisations have emerged to look into their plight.
It seems like Sabah has no lack of smaller relatives to large animals. The sun bear is the smallest of all bears, even smaller than the panda. The main predator of sun bears throughout its range by far is man. Commercial poaching of bears for the wildlife trade is a considerable threat in most countries. Their gall bladders are highly sought after in the black market, which is thought to be able to treat many types of illness. The Malayan sun bear is part of an international captive-breeding program and has a Species Survival Plan under the Association of Zoos & Aquariums since late 1994.
Possibly the cutest animal in this article, the slow loris is often trafficked and sold as pets. Despite the cute looks, slow loris is unsuitable as pets. They have a toxic bite, a trait rare among mammals and unique to lorisid primates. In addition, they are difficult to care for, and often die from infection, blood loss, improper handling or inadequate nutrition. Each of the slow loris species that had been identified prior to 2012 is listed as either “Vulnerable” or “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List.
Most of these animals can be seen and appreciated at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, a Sabah government initiative to keep rescued animals, study, and educate the public about Borneo’s endemic wildlife.