Malaysia’s Last Male Sumatran Rhino Dies

Malaysia’s last surviving male Sumatran rhinoceros died on Monday (May 27) following a bout of ill-health, leaving behind only one female in the country and pushing the critically-endangered species closer to extinction.

“It is with heavy hearts that we share the tragic news that Tam, Malaysia’s last male Sumatran rhino, has passed away. We will share more details in due time, but right now we need some time mourn his passing,” the Borneo Rhino Alliance said in a Facebook statement.

Sabah’s Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew said last week that Tam’s health was deteriorating and that he had been on medication due to the poor functioning of some of his internal organs.

Tam was captured by a wildlife team in August 2008 at an oil palm plantation in the town of Tawau.

To gain his trust, the team from the Sabah Wildlife Department, SOS Rhino and WWF-Malaysia fed and befriended Tam for a week, before coaxing him into a crate, the New Straits Times reported earlier.  

Tam was thought to be in his mid-20s when he was taken to Tabin Wildlife Forest Reserve, Ms Liew said.

Tam’s death now leaves Iman as the last surviving female Sumatran rhinoceros in Malaysia, WWF-Malaysia said in a statement on Facebook. 

“Let the loss of Tam be the wakeup call that we need to spring into action. Our wildlife needs protection now and like it or not, we are their only hope.”

Tam’s death puts pressure on an ongoing effort for conservationists hoping to use in-vitro fertilisation techniques to create offspring from Iman, and an Indonesian male.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said there were problems with Iman’s uterus and that she was incapable of becoming pregnant, but was still able to produce eggs.

“We just have to look after the last remaining rhino. That’s all we can do, and try if possible to work with Indonesia,” he said.

Once found as far away as eastern India and throughout Malaysia, the Sumatran rhino has been almost wiped out, with fewer than 80 left, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Only a handful of the creatures remain in the wilds of Indonesia.