KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia lost its last Sumatran rhinoceros following the death of Iman at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu today.
The female rhino died at 5.35pm at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary within the wildlife reserve.
In announcing the sad news, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew said Iman died of natural causes.
She said Iman was given the very best care and attention since her capture in March 2014 right up to the moment she passed.
“Despite us knowing that this would happen sooner rather than later, we are so very saddened by this news. No one could have done more.
"She was actually quite close to death when sudden massive blood loss from the uterine tumours occurred on several occasions over the past few years," she said in a statement.
Liew, who is state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, said the team at Tabin provided round-the-clock intensive support and successfully brought her back to good health that yielded egg cell production on several occasions.
The proposed Malaysia-Indonesia collaboration to ensure the survival of the species is still pending.
“I would like to inform our counterparts in Indonesia that I am keen to pursue the Memorandum of Understanding. There are still ways in which our countries can usefully collaborate based on our different experience over the past decade," she said.
For Sabah, Liew said that included management of female Sumatran rhinos with reproductive pathology, safe harvesting of gametes from living rhinos and cell culture.
Iman and Tam both live on as cell cultures in Malaysia, she added.
Tam was a male Sumatra rhino and was captured in Aug 2010. It died on May 27, 2019.
Meanwhile, state wildlife direcyor Augustine Tuuga said Iman’s death came much sooner than expected.
"But we knew she was starting to suffer significant pain from the growing pressure of the tumours into the bladder.
"Dr Zainal, the veterinarian at Borneo Rhino Sanctuary, had suggested just earlier today that we start using morphine tomorrow, as other pain-killers were becoming insufficient," he said.
Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin is a veterinarian of Borneo Rhino Alliance.
In explaining Iman's death, he said the rhino died of a shock, which medically means a critical condition that is brought on by sudden drop in blood flow through the body.