Malaysia holds vigil: The last male Sumatra rhino is dying

Tam's appetite and level of activity fell suddenly towards the end of last month. The animal is under constant observation by veterinarians. Iman, the last female specimen in Malaysia, is also ill.

May 26, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia is in danger of losing its last male Sumatra rhinoceros: Elder Tam (photo) has stopped eating since April and his health is deteriorating rapidly.  The alarm was raised by Christina Liew, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment of the State of Sabah (in the northern region of Borneo).

 "Tam's appetite and activity level suddenly dropped towards the end of last month," Liew said last week.  "Veterinarians are monitoring it 24 hours a day. Tests are underway, but it appears that one or more of its internal organs are not working well."

 In August 2008, forest rangers captured the male rhino in the Kretam palm oil plantation in Tawau.  In the past, this area was jungle.  Before the capture of Tam, a group of members of the Sabah Wildlife Department (Swd), SOS Rhino and WWF-Malaysia had spent a week feeding and making friends with the animal, to gain his trust and convince him to enter  in a box.

Tam was taken to the Tabin Nature Reserve, where he has lived ever since.  At the time of his capture, it was thought that the rhino was about 20 years old.  Augustine Tuuga, director of the SWD, says that "today Tam is in old age for a Sumatran rhino".  If Tam died, he would leave the female Iman as the last specimen of his species in Malaysia.  In June 2017, another female named Puntung was shot dead.

Puntung was captured in 2011, while Iman was captured in 2014. "Hopes of finding a partner for Tam were broken when we found out that Puntung had cysts throughout the uterus.  Even Iman, on the other hand, suffers from massive uterine fibroids.  These diseases are the reflection of too few rhinos and insufficient reproductive success in the last decades of the last century, "explains the minister.

"Since 2011 - concludes Liew - all the efforts made in Malaysia to save species from extinction have focused on the application of advanced reproductive technology, including IVF attempts and collaborations with Indonesia. To date,  these have not been successful ".--Asia News

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