KOTA KINABALU: The health of Malaysia's last surviving male Sumatran rhinoceros is deteriorating, said Sabah's Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew on Sunday (May 19).
"Tam's appetite and level of activity have dropped suddenly since the end of April, and he is now given medicine daily because some of his internal organs are not functioning well," she added.
If Tam dies, it would leave Iman as the last surviving female Sumatran rhinoceros in Malaysia, after another female rhinoceros Puntung was euthanised in June 2017.
"Hopes to find a mate for him were dashed when Puntung was found to have multiple cysts throughout her uterus," Ms Liew was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.
“Iman, on the other hand, was found to have massive uterine fibroids,” she added.
Puntung was captured in 2011, while Iman was captured in 2014.
"These illnesses are a reflection of too few rhinoceros and insufficient breeding success during the last decades of the 20th century," said Ms Liew.
Tam was captured by a wildlife team in August 2008 at the Kretam palm oil plantation in Tawau, which was previously a jungle area.
To gain his trust, the team from the Sabah Wildlife Department, SOS Rhino and WWF-Malaysia fed and befriended Tam for a week, before coaxing him into a crate, the New Straits Times reported. He was thought to be in his mid-20s when he was taken to Tabin Wildlife Forest Reserve, Ms Liew said.
Since 2011, Malaysia' efforts to save rare animal species from extinction have been focused on reproductive technology, such as in-vitro fertilisation and collaboration with Indonesia, she added.