Wildlife & Biodiversity

Sumatran rhino is now extinct in Malaysia

Iman, the last Sumatran rhino in the country, passed away on November 23, 2019

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 25 November 2019
Iman, the last Sumatran rhino in Malaysia

The Sumatran rhino has become extinct in Malaysia, one of the two countries where it is mostly found after the last remaining individual died on November 23, 2019, due to natural causes.

Iman, a 25-year-old female, had been suffering from cancer. She had developed non-malignant uterine tumors, which were pressing against her bladder.

According to the Sabah Wildlife Department, Iman died at 5.35 pm local time on November 23.

Iman was captured in 2014 from the Danum Valley in the Malaysian state of Sabah, in the Malaysian-administered part of Borneo island. Since then, she had been living at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, according to the Borneo Rhino Alliance.

Iman’s death came just six months after the last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia, Tam, died, also at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in Tabin Wildlife Reserve. He died on May 27, 2019, after a prolonged illness, at the age of 35.

The Sumatran rhino is the smallest of the five extant rhino species in the world. The other species include the White Rhino, the Black Rhino, the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros and the Javan Rhino.

After the deaths of Tam and Iman, there are now just 80 Sumatran rhinos left in the world, all of them in Indonesia, especially on the island of Sumatra and the Indonesian part of Borneo.

In an interview with Down To Earth at the time of Tam’s death, veteran naturalist, Anwaruddin Choudhury had said that the Sumatran rhino was once found in Northeast India.

“In the Indian subcontinent in the 19th century, the Sumatran rhinoceros occurred in parts of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram, northern Bengal, Bhutan, Comilla and the Chittagong Hill Tracts (the latter two areas are now in Bangladesh),” a 1997 paper titled The status of the Sumatran rhinoceros in north-eastern India by Choudhury, notes.

“The last two records for the subcontinent were in 1967, when a Sumatran rhinoceros was killed near Cox's Bazar in the Chittagong area and a rhinoceros was seen by local people in the Punikhal area of Sonai Reserved Forest of Cachar district, southern Assam,” it adds.

During the interview, Choudhury had expressed hope that there might be some Sumatran rhino still extant in Myanmar. “Considering the large size of forested areas in Myanmar and the fact that very few experts have visited it, there could be a chance,” he had said.

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