KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia is losing its last Sumatran rhinoceros as the prognosis of the cancer-stricken Iman is now poor, said Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew.
She added that the condition of the 25-year-old female rhino that’s been under the care of a team of caregivers led by Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin at Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu is deteriorating.
"This week, Iman's body weight is 476 kilogrammes, 44 kg less than her average weight over the past few years. She is not eating her normal amount and is being given supplements.
"The situation reminds us of the case of Puntung, who was euthanised on June 4, 2017, because her squamous cell carcinoma was incurable and she was suffering pain," she said in a press conference at the state Assembly building.
Iman's tumour has been with her when she was captured in March 2014. Although the cancer is not malignant, it has spread to her urinary bladder.
"The vets said there is no way to halt the growth of these tumours, and surgery to remove them always was and still is too dangerous there would be inevitable major blood loss that would result in her quick demise," she added.
Liew, who is also state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, said the state government would expedite the legality process with Indonesian counterparts for the in-vitro fertilisation.
She added that the process will involve harvesting of an ovum from sick Iman to be fertilised with Indonesian rhino's sperms.
The state government had attempted to fertilise Iman's ovum with frozen sperm at a Universiti Malaysia Sabah facility in Sandakan.
However, the attempt failed as the sperms are of poor quality. The semen belonged to Sabah's last male rhino Tam, who died in May this year.