By Nazir Foead
This is WWF-Indonesia's response to an op-ed, Has WWF just condemned the last rhino in Kalimantan?, published on Mongabay.com last week by Erik Meijaard, a conservation scientist based in Indonesia.
WWF-Indonesia had considered the impact of the publication of finding traces of Sumatran rhinos in Kalimantan. In the two-month period before it was published, WWF-Indonesia had coordinated with various parties, including the local government, the Forestry Ministry, rhino experts, local university and other related parties to set up strategies and to ensure commitment to full protection of the rhino. As protection measure to avoid poaching, WWF-Indonesia and a monitoring team — involving local communities and central, provincial and district authorities — are currently working on securing and monitoring the area [where the rhino traces have been found]. WWF never made public any details of the location and has carefully worded the press release without revealing too much information that could endanger the rhino. The security of the area is our top priority.
In addition to the protection measures on the ground, on 4 April 2013 during the ‘Rhino Crisis Summit’ in Singapore, the Government of Indonesia and the Government of Malaysia have agreed to collaborate to save the Sumatran Rhino, including those identified in Kalimantan. Both countries and relevant experts will soon established an emergency action plan as a follow up of the agreement. WWF stands ready to support the implementation of the plan on the ground (Indonesian | English).
The announcement of the finding of Sumatran rhinos in Kalimantan was made in order to promote public awareness and raise political commitment from the government to incorporate protection of the endangered species and their habitat in Heart of Borneo plan of action and land-use and spatial plans. The press release has generated an enormous amount of awareness about the importance of preserving the remaining forests in Kalimantan by flagging the situation of this very iconic species. The public awareness should not be underestimated and can drive decision makers to take responsive action. WWF believes the impact would not be the same if the finding is only kept exclusive among conservationists.