Last male Sumatran rhino dies in Sabah

The animal had been sick for some time. He died from old age and involved organ failure. With his death, only one female remains in Malaysia. Tam's genome is now preserved in cell culture.

Kota Kinabalu (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Malaysia’s last surviving male Sumatran rhino Tam (pictured) didn’t make it. He died around noon today at the Borneo Rhinoceros Sanctuary, in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Lahad Datu.

Datuk Christina Liew, Sabah Deputy Chief Minister and Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, said the exact cause of death would be known after the autopsy, noting that “everything that could have possibly been done, was done, and executed with great love and dedication.”

The animal’s “last weeks involved the most intense palliative care as humanly possible,” she explained, “rendered by the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) team under veterinarian Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary”. Liew said Tam's death was related to old age and involved multiple organ failures.

Reports indicate that his appetite and alertness had declined significantly since the end of last month. Urine analysis tests indicated that he was suffering from organ damage and poor kidney function.

It spent most of its time lying down, having received round-the-clock attention and medication from keepers as well as veterinarians.

Liew said Tam's living genome was now preserved in cell culture. "We hope that with emerging technologies at cell and molecular levels, he may be able to contribute his genes to ensure the survival of the species," she explained.

With Tam's death, Malaysia is now left with one female Sumatran rhinoceros, Iman, who was captured in 2014.

She appears to be the last Sumatran rhinoceros found in the wild. Since her rescue, no other Sumatran rhinoceros has been detected in Sabah, a sign that the species may have become extinct.