Wildlife & Biodiversity

Malaysia’s last male Sumatran rhino dies

Tam died on the afternoon of May 27 local time of old age illnesses

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 27 May 2019
A Sumatran Rhino. Photo: Creative Commons

Curtains have come down on the Sumatran rhino in Malaysia after the last male died on the afternoon of May 27, 2019, local time of old age, according to reports in the Malaysian media.

Tam, short for Kretam, died at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Lahad Datu in the state of Sabah, on the island of Borneo.

According to Sabah’s deputy chief minister cum tourism, culture and environment Minister, Tam’s death was related to old age and multiple organ failures.

Tam was suffering from kidney and liver damage for quite some time.

He was found wandering in the Kretam oil palm plantation (Hence his name) in 2008. His age at that time was estimated to be 20. He would have been in his mid-thirties currently. The average life expectancy of a Sumatran rhino is between 35 and 40 years.

Tam’s death leaves just one female, named Iman, as the last surviving Sumatran rhinoceros within the boundaries of Malaysia.

In June 2017, another female, Puntung was euthanised because she was suffering from cancer that was incurable.

Attempts to mate Tam with Iman and Puntung had not borne fruit, putting an end to hopes of reviving the species in Malaysia. However, Tam’s genetic material will be preserved for any future attempts.

The Sumatran rhino is the smallest of the extant five species of rhinoceros found in the world today. The others are the White and Black Rhinoceros from Africa, the Great Indian One-Horned Rhino of the Indian Subcontinent and the Javan Rhino, also from Southeast Asia.

Historically, the Sumatran rhino ranged across Northeast India, Myanmar, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. They are now completely restricted to Southeast Asia, mostly the island of Sumatra.

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