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Malaysia is in danger of losing Tam, its last male Sumatran rhinoceros. Pic by NSTP/ROY GOH

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia is in danger of losing Tam, its last male Sumatran rhinoceros.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew said the animal’s appetite and alertness had declined abruptly since the end of last month.

“Serious concerns are growing over (Tam’s) health now. It is receiving round-the-clock attention and medication,” she said.

“Tests are ongoing, but it seems that one or more of his internal organs are not functioning well.”

In Aug 2008, a wildlife team captured the male rhinoceros at the Kretam oil palm plantation in Tawau.

Prior to its capture, the team from the Sabah Wildlife Department, SOS Rhino and WWF-Malaysia had spent a week feeding and befriending Tam to gain his trust and coax him into a crate.

Tam was taken to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve where he has lived ever since.

At the time of its capture, the rhinocerous was thought to be in his mid-20s.

“Tam has always been a favourite of the people who work with him or visit him, due to his calm and steady manner.

“Hopes to find a mate for him were dashed when Puntung (a female Sumatran rhinoceros) was found to have multiple cysts throughout her uterus.

“Iman (another female), on the other hand, was found to have massive uterine fibroids,” she said.

Puntung and Iman were the only two female Sumatran rhinos left in Malaysia. Puntung was captured in 2011, while Iman was captured in 2014.

Puntung was euthanised in 2017 because she was suffering from painful and incurable cancer, leaving Iman the only female survivor.

“These illnesses are a reflection of too few rhinos and insufficient breeding success during the last decades of the 20th century,” she said.

“Since 2011, all efforts in Malaysia to save the species from extinction have been focused on the application of advanced reproductive technology, including in-vitro fertilisation attempts and collaboration with Indonesia.

“To date, the attempts (breeding programmes) have not met with success.”

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