On November 23, Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhino died of cancer. The rhino, a female named Iman, was residing in captivity at Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Malaysian Borneo and was believed to be around 25 years old. Conservationists had been hopeful that they could breed Iman with Tam, the country’s last male Sumatran rhino, in order to prevent the species from going extinct in Malaysia. That plan didn’t quite work out, however, as Tam’s sperm was too low-quality to reproduce and Iman had a uterine tumor that prevented conception. Tam, the last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia, died this past May.
There are fewer than 80 Sumatran rhinos left in the world due to extensive loss of habitat and poaching; the species is listed as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. The remaining population is located in Indonesia, spread out on two islands (Indonesian Borneo and Sumatra), and is being closely monitored and protected by anti-poaching units and forest guards.
The Sumatran Rhino Rescue, an alliance between conservation organizations and the Indonesian government that was created in 2018 to prevent the extinction of the species, is working tirelessly to protect and bring together the remaining rhinos in hopes of boosting the population. Currently, pockets of the population are fragmented and far from each other, preventing the animals from mating. The project aims to establish new sanctuaries and expand current facilities where the rhinos can be relocated and taken care of by experts in husbandry and veterinary care.