Malaysia’s last surviving male Sumatran rhino dies

Jason Santos

Tam being cared for by his caretakers at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve recently. – Pic courtesy of Sabah Wildlife Department, May 27, 2019.

MALAYSIA’S last surviving male rhinoceros, Tam, died this afternoon after under undergoing round-the-clock treatment since May 19. 

Wildlife officials said concerns over his health had grown since his appetite and alertness began declining in late April. 

Sabah Wildlife director Augustine Tuuga attributed the Sumatran rhinoceros’ declining health to old age. 

Tam, or Kretam, was found was found in an oil palm plantation in Kretam, Sabah, in August 2008 and was estimated to be more than 20 years old at the time. 

He was then placed at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. 

A post-mortem to determine the cause of death is being carried out. 

Sabah’s Sumatran rhinos have been declared extinct by the state government as there have been no new sightings of the animal in the wild for years. 

In efforts to revive the species, the state government had pushed for a collaboration with Indonesia to set up a Sumatran rhinoceros breeding and conservation programme. 

On June 4 last year, Puntung, a cancer-stricken female rhino, was euthanised by the Sabah Wildlife Department after her cancer had spread, leading to breathing difficulties. 

Iman, a female, is now the sole surviving Sumatran rhino in Malaysia.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew, meanwhile, said she believed Tam’s death was due to old age and multiple organ failure. 

Liew, who is also Sabah deputy chief minister, said the precise cause of death would only be known after the autopsy. 

“Invariably, everything that could possibly have been done was done and executed with great love and dedication.

“His last weeks involved the most intense palliative care as possible, rendered by the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) team under veterinarian Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Lahad Datu,” she said in a statement today. 

Liew, however, said there was a silver lining as Tam’s living genome has been preserved in cell culture and, with emerging technological breakthroughs, could be used to revive the species. – May 27, 2019.

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