Science

Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhino dies

Source: Wikimedia Commons

by Olivia Davies

In the country of Malaysia, the last Sumatran rhino, or hairy rhinoceros died on November 23rd. The 23 year old female named Iman died of uterine cancer in captivity where she was kept for a captive breeding program in order to increase the number of these types of rhino in Malaysia. The rhino was kept in the Malaysian Bornean state of Sabah with help from the local wildlife department. 

Despite Iman’s health deteriorating over the past year, due to the cancer, her death still comes as a shock to Sabah and the country of Malaysia. Christina Liew, the state environment minister was quoted by local media – “Its death was a natural one, and the immediate cause has been categorised as shock. Iman was given the very best care and attention since her capture in March 2014 right up to the moment she passed.”

This death marks the final chapter in the quest to keep the Sumatran rhino species alive in Malaysia. The last surviving male Sumatran rhino died on May 2019 this year, Malaysia’s last chance of a breeding couple. The species has under 10 individuals in the Indonesian region of f Borneo and eggs have been extracted from Iman in order for IVF to occur. “This will allow us to continue with the programme to try to create embryos of this critically-endangered species” says Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga. 

The number of Sumatran Rhino’s has decreased by 70% in the past two decades, due to poaching. Since females usually give birth once every 2-5 years, the chance of the population rapidly increasing is low. This gives a bleak outlook on the possibility of population regrowth. With widespread degradation on some of the world’s most precious habitats, this recent death of Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhino signifies one of many future extinctions that are predicted to come in future years. 

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