Malaysia's last Sumatran rhinoceros dies
Malaysia’s last known Sumatran rhinoceros tragically passed away this week, making the species extinct in that country. Iman, a 25-year-old female had been battling cancer since 2014, but eventually lost her fight in the state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.
In a statement provided to reporters, Augustine Tuuga, the director of the Sabah wildlife department said:
“Iman’s death came rather sooner than we had expected, but we knew that she was starting to suffer significant pain.”
Christina Liew, Sabah’s environment minister, also added:
“Despite us knowing that this would happen sooner rather than later, we are so very saddened by this news.”
"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.”
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The news is just the latest setback to a species that was once prolific throughout Asia, but is now believed to number no more than 100 individuals. Malaysia’s last male rhinoceros died last year after multiple attempts to breed the two animals ended in failure.
Although Sumatran rhinoceros face significant threats from poaching and human habitat encroachment, arguably the major problem affecting their survival is their solitary nature and isolated existence. The fact that there are so few left, spread over vast patches of quickly disappearing rainforest makes breeding extremely rare.
The Sumatran rhinoceros, along with the Black and Javan species, is listed as critically endangered. Rhino populations the world over are under significant threat, mainly due to the demand for rhino horn in Chinese traditional medicine.
Although the ground-up horns are often marketed as a cure for everything from fever to gout, there is no evidence to suggest that they are of any medical benefit whatsoever. With so few individuals left, the danger of losing rhinos forever is very real indeed.