Thankful Poachers Didn’t Get Puntung

Recognition for Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) field staff 

In her late teens when offered an office job by SOS Rhino Borneo, Rajimah Kasran was overjoyed, but within a month, was ready to call it quits. Although from a remote village in eastern Sabah, a Malaysian state in Borneo, Rajimah had never ventured into the forest – and was shocked to learn her “administrative post” required her to join team members in the tropical jungle at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, in the Lahad Datu district.

“I was told that I will work in an office, but I ended up going into the forest. I found it tough, and I wanted to go home. But when I started learning about the Sumatran rhinoceros, I hung on. For most part of the first year, each month I promised myself that I will bear it a little longer … I was starting to get used to the forest, and I wanted to know more about rhinos,” Rajimah said, recollecting her early years in rhino conservation work.

Months have turned into years – eight to be exact. Now 26, Rajimah is part of a team that works closely with the Sabah Wildlife Department to save the critically endangered Sumatran rhino – some estimates point at less than 30 in the wild in Borneo – with all known ranges in Sabah.

From having no awareness of the elusive mammal, Rajimah is now a valuable member of the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) team. BORA, which took over from the role played by SOS Rhino Borneo, is a non-governmental organization with a mission to prevent the extinction of Borneo’s rhino population. It assists the Sabah Wildlife Department in the development of the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary programme – an initiative of the Sabah State Government to increase rhino births through captive breeding.

On 27th January 2012, Rajimah was among 21 BORA field staff who received certificates of appreciation from the Chairman of the BORA Board, Dr Abdul Hamid Ahmad, for their critical work in helping capture wild female rhino Puntung and dedication over the last two years. BORA Executive Director Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne and Board member Ms Cynthia Ong joined Abdul Hamid in commending staff.

Rajimah receiving her certificate

BORA staff with their certificates of appreciation

“Back then, I didn’t even know what a rhino was. I was a coordinator for a homestay programme at my village in Dagat in the Segama area and suddenly I was involved in rhino work. I slowly started learning and today, my life revolves around rhinos. I hardly return home to my village although it is not very far away from Tabin simply because when I am home, I only think of rhinos in captivity, and those in the wild. My biggest fear is that poachers will get the remaining populations,” she said.

The species is today critically endangered following a combination over the past millennium of a loss of most of their prime habitat in Southeast Asia’s lowlands and chronic hunting for their horn, used in Chinese traditional medicine. Today, the species is threatened with extinction because their numbers are extremely low.

Rajimah, one of only two women doing field work under BORA, is enthusiastic about her work and feels honoured that the management team decided to present staff with certificates of appreciation.  “I feel very valued. Our greatest achievement so far is the capture of Puntung in December last year. I am so thankful that she didn’t fall into the hands of poachers,” Rajimah said.

Puntung is currently housed at an interim facility near the proposed Borneo Rhino Sanctuary at Tabin, along with Tam and Gelogob. Estimated to be 10 to 12 years old, Puntung is potentially a mate for Tam who was discovered when he walked out of the forest and into an oil palm estate in 2008.

Puntung - her first attempt into her enclosure

Interim facility

Interim facility

Gelogob in her wallow

To read more about the certificate of appreciation story, the following are news reports of the event:

Borneo Post

Borneo Post

Daily Express

Berita Harian

Berita Harian

New Sabah Times

New Straits Times

To learn more about BORA, visit


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