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Rare Video Footage of Elusive Borneo Rhino Captured

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on April 25th, 2007

The WWF has released what they are claiming is the first-ever footage of an elusive Borneo rhino.

WWF captures extraordinary video of rare Borneo rhino

A video “camera trap” positioned inside the jungle has captured rare footage of an elusive Borneo rhino, WWF and Malaysia’s Sabah Wildlife Department announced today.

The 2 minute video — showing the animal eating, walking to the camera and sniffing the equipment — is the first-ever footage of observing the behaviour in the wild of one of the world’s rarest rhinos.

Scientists estimate there are only between 25 and 50 rhinos left on the island of Borneo. These last survivors of the Bornean subspecies of Sumatran rhinos are believed to remain only in the interior forests of Sabah, Malaysia — an area known as the “Heart of Borneo.” The rhinos are so secretive that the first-ever still photo of one was captured last year.

“These are very shy animals that are almost never seen by people,” said Mahedi Andau, director of the Sabah Wildlife Department. “This video gives us an amazing opportunity to spy on the rhino’s behaviour.”

The rhinos in Sabah spend their lives in dense jungle where they are rarely seen, which accounts for the lack of any previous photographs of them in the wild.

The video camera trap that captured the rhino footage was developed by Stephen Hogg, Head of Audio Visual at WWF-Malaysia. After successfully testing the newly developed camera trap on Malayan tigers in Peninsula Malaysia, it was set up in Sabah to capture the Sumatran rhino. Photos and video footage can determine the condition of rhinos, help identify individual animals and show how they behave in the wild.

“We did a pilot test with two of my video cameras in an area that the field team had determined was used by rhinos. The first time we checked them, after four weeks, there were these fantastic images,” Hogg said. “This is further proof that these video cameras do work and are of value to our conservation work. This footage is awesome and could not have been better.”

On Borneo, there have been no confirmed reports of rhinos apart from those in Sabah for almost 20 years, leading experts to fear that the species may now be extinct on the rest of the island. Major threats include poaching, illegal encroachment into key rhino habitats, and the fact that the remaining rhinos are so isolated that they may rarely or never meet to breed.

“The photos and video footage will be used to determine the condition of the rhinos in the wild,” said Raymond Alfred, project manager for WWF’s Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy (AREAS). “But we have to realize that these rhinos could face extinction in the next ten years if their habitat continues to be disturbed and enforcement is not in place.”

Recently, the ministers of the three Bornean governments – Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia – signed an historic Declaration to conserve and sustainably manage the Heart of Borneo. This has put the area on the global stage of conservation priorities.

END NOTES:

• The rhinos found on Borneo are regarded as a subspecies of the Sumatran rhinos, which means they have different physical characteristics to rhinos found in Sumatra (Indonesia) and Peninsular Malaysia. The Sumatran rhino is one of the world’s most critically endangered species, with small numbers found only in Sumatra (Indonesia), Sabah (on the northern end of Borneo) and Peninsular Malaysia.

• Conservationists hope that the population is viable and will be able to reproduce if protected from poaching. However, a high proportion of females have reproductive problems. Many of the remaining rhinos are old and possibly beyond reproductive age. The death rate may be exceeding birth rate.

• Sabah and the forests of the “Heart of Borneo” still hold huge tracts of continuous natural forests, which are some of the most biologically diverse habitats on Earth, with high numbers of unique animal and plant species. It is one of only two places in the world – Indonesia’s Sumatra island is the other – where orang-utans, elephants and rhinos still co-exist and where forests are currently large enough to maintain viable populations.

• WWF, Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department and SOS Rhino are currently conducting on-the-ground monitoring to protect key rhino habitat in Sabah. However, based on the field survey and patrol in several key habitats in Sabah, a single field enforcement activity will not be effective without an integrated awareness programme and the willingness of the public and other agencies to cooperate to protect rhino habitats.

• Sabah Forestry Department is leading the acquisition of a 200-hectare forest corridor to be secured as rhino habitat, and is strengthening security within this portion of the Heart of Borneo with the support of Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Foundation and WWF-Malaysia.WWF

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster.


12 Responses to “Rare Video Footage of Elusive Borneo Rhino Captured”

  1. Bob Michaels responds:

    In addition, Borneo is the home of the Pygmy elephant, numbers put at 1600, a viable population that needs protection

  2. SpaghettiYeti responds:

    Some wonderful footage that I’m glad I lived to see- but like similar rare footage of a wild snow leopard filmed from a camera trap in the Himalayas from just about a year ago- these animals are clearly aware of the camera’s presence. It’s not hidden to them at all.

    So now which animal would hypothetically be the most clever- a Borneo Rhino, Snow Leopard, or American Sasquatch?

  3. Sylense responds:

    This is an obvious hoax.
    Two guys in a suit. I can also see it carrying a stick.

  4. Excelsior Comics responds:

    Hi there, I’ve been reading Cryptomundo for about the last six months and have just now felt the need to finally post. Glad to see that there are others like me out there.

    About the clip, beautiful image of such a wonderful creature. Clearly I’m not the only one to notice it took more than four weeks with multiple cameras in a location that the rhino (who is not camera shy) was known to frequent before we even get what amounts to 45 secs of clear video. And yet people are amazed that we have yet to obtain a clear video or image of a creature that doesn’t want to be found, does not seem to have particular “stomping grounds”, and from an expedition that lasts a weekend. Such is life.

    Again, glad to meet you all.

  5. MBFH responds:

    This is good news, along with the mention that the government are looking to protect the rainforest. I seriously hope they’re going to put some real resources into it as logging, legal and illegal, has long been an issue on Borneo that has lead to widespread habitat loss.

    I don’t know where you get the idea that the rhino knows there’s a camera there ;)

  6. DWA responds:

    Excelsior Comics: the explanation is clear. The Bornean population of the Sumatran rhino are the smartest animals ever known to have existed. (RRiiiiiighhhht. It’s two Dayaks in a really good suit.)

    The sasquatch is only an ape, ferpetesake. How could he possibly avoid an ignorant population over 300 million, dedicated to considering him a hoax, not looking for him, and otherwise ignoring him? Must be a fake.

  7. mystery_man responds:

    This is really exciting news and extraordinary footage, even though it is obviously fake! :) . But seriously, now why can’t Bigfoot come out of the woods, pose like that, then come up and sniff the camera before dramatically crunching off into the woods? Sigh.

  8. Daryl Colyer responds:

    Hey, mystery_man, that’s a great question.

    Well, truthfully there’s nobody out there but perhaps one group (TBRC) and a few individuals (Meldrum, Noll) who are out there trying this very mainstream method of deploying and using a number of camera traps (with very fast trigger speeds) in a concerted effort to obtain the “discovery shot.” The TBRC (Operation Forest Vigil) is conducting this same exact type of research, using a number of very high-speed wildlife photo/video cameras, concentrated in a couple areas of very high interest. To my knowledge, the technology hasn’t been good enough, and nobody’s really tried such an approach regarding the sasquatch, even though one of the world’s leading field biologists, George Schaller, has made very public comments encouraging researchers to do that very thing.

    Quite a few individuals don’t even think good photos or film will work, so they don’t even try it, or if they do, it’s hit and miss with a low-tech camera here and a low-tech camera there, or one or two digitals there for a few weeks; it may take years to get any footage at all. The TBRC absolutely believes this is the method to pursue, and we have been pursuing it now for a year.

    So far, we have put out approximately 25 excellent digital high-speed cameras, and have been monitoring them for a while. We add camera traps to the array as we acquire funds and/or more equipment (we were recently bolstered by a nice camera donation from a university Ph.D. from the four-state region).

    We’ll have more to say about this in our upcoming report on Operation Forest Vigil, which will be published when our new site comes on line.

    Anyway, I said all that to say that, until recently, this kind of research in the search for the sasquatch has not really been used in a concerted effort by a group. That is not the case now.

  9. DWA responds:

    Daryl: if you get no shots that proves nothing either way.

    Just making sure.

    But you know that.

    I am frankly confounded by the assertions I have seen that no way will a photo – or even a video – get it done. This is what comes of watching too many fakes and playing too much with Photoshop, folks. You stop trusting your eyes. We have a heritage of five million years plus as a hunter. When footage – or even good stills – of a real animal come out, people will know it’s genuine. Fakes leap out at you. (Sure a man in an ape suit is a “real animal.” We see it in an instant. It’s a human.)

    I, too, think this is the way to go. Got the rhino, didn’t it?

  10. mystery_man responds:

    Daryl Coyler- Great to hear! Thanks for the info. It really does seem to me that the TBRC are putting the right kind of time, money, and rescources into the search. The more I read about the organization, the more hopeful I become that they can put these mainstream methods to good use and come up with some compelling stuff. I personally think these camera trap arrays have great potential to produce some good results if they are of a high quality and are placed right, so I am glad to see that the concerted effort to utilize this method is being made. I am also glad to see that the project has gotten some funding as this appears to typically be a hurtle in this field. I look forward to seeing anything you have to report and I support your operation 100 percent.

  11. fuzzy responds:

    Way to go, TBRC – Good Luck!!

  12. Daryl Colyer responds:

    DWA – true enough, it doesn’t necessarily prove that something doesn’t exist if you try to photograph/film it, but are unsuccessful.

    It could be indicative of a number of things:

    the subject you are trying to film/photo actually does not exist;

    you didn’t do your homework (you’re in the wrong place to begin with);

    you weren’t persistent enough (a rare species might take years to get on film or video, as was the case with the snow leopard and the Borneo rhino);

    you didn’t have the camera trap(s) in the right position or direction (are you on an active wildlife trail? do you need to shift the camera 12 inches to the right?);

    you didn’t provide proper maintenance on the camera traps, thus missing out on possible opportunities;

    your camera technology is not good enough (slow trigger speed, insufficient range/flash, prone to overexposure, etc.);

    your camera traps are in an area that is subject to human tampering and vandalism;

    etc., etc., etc.

    msytery_man, thank you. Like you said, this is a very mainstream research method, advocated by very mainstream field biologists. It’s been shown that it can lead to success in obtaining film/photos of rare and endangered species (rhino, snow leopard, etc.); durn it, it can work, if done properly and for the long-term.

    While some are arguing over whether or not the sasquatch exists, or whether or not it’s ethical to charge for “bigfoot expeditions” or what kind of gun to use for “harvesting” a sasquatch specimen, or whether or not there are multiple species of bigfoot-like creatures, you should know that there is a group of investigators and scientists, both professional and amateur, working very closely together in a cooperative effort, to quietly and methodically employ numerous high-quality, high-speed, digital camera traps to obtain good clear photo/film evidence of the sasquatch.

    Again – we have no illusions about time of required commitment; we are prepared to accelerate this operation and continue it for years and years (short term goal is to have 100 high-quality camera traps out within the next two years). Having said that, we believe that time is of the essence; most of us in the TBRC believe their numbers are not great.



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