Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhino dies

Posted by Jessica [email protected] on 29 November 2019

The Sumatran rhinoceros is now locally extinct in Malaysia. The country’s last rhino, a female named Iman, died of cancer in the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary on 23 November.

‘Iman was given the very best care and attention since her capture in March 2014 right up to the moment she passed,’ said Christine Liew, Sabah State’s Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment. ‘No one could have done more.’

Department director Augustine Tuuga said in a statement that Iman, who reportedly was 25 years old, was suffering significant pain from growing pressure of the tumours to her bladder but that her death came sooner than expected.

Iman was captured and relocated to the sanctuary in 2014 where wildlife officials had hoped they could save the species from local extinction by breeding Iman with the country’s last male Sumatran rhino, Tam.

Unfortunately, Tam’s sperm count had been of too low quality to reproduce. This, compounded by Iman’s uterine tumour that prevented conception, meant that the two were never able to conceive a calf.

Tam passed away earlier this year, in May.

Of the five species of rhino, the Sumatran is considered the most endangered. Extensive poaching and habitat loss have led to a 70% decrease in population size over the last 20 years. Now, fewer than 80 Sumatran rhinos survive in fragmented populations in Indonesia, although mainly on the island of Sumatra, and are physically guarded by rhino protection units.

The status of the Sumatran rhino. Image by National Geographic

The Sumatran Rhino Rescue, a coalition of international conservation organisations, hopes to save the species by capturing as many wild rhinos as possible and transferring them to sanctuaries where wildlife specialists can assist in their reproduction.

In their statement on the loss of Iman, the Sumatran Rhino Rescue said that ‘Iman’s death underscores the urgency of the global community’s efforts to save the Sumatran rhino from extinction and we are committed to continuing our work to support the government of Indonesia’s Emergency Action Plan to save this species.’


Featured image: The Sumatran Rhino Rescue

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