Farewell to Iman, the last Sumatran rhino in Malaysia


With the death of Iman the Sumatran rhino became extinct in Malaysia. Worldwide it is now estimated that fewer than 100 specimens of this species survive and the worst forecasts even indicate the possibility that there are only thirty wild rhinos still alive. They would be among the few survivors of humans: due to the poaching of the precious horn and the total loss of habitat, the Sumatran rhino is in fact slowly drifting towards extinction.

At one time, before the rhino Tam, a male, died last May, conservationists and biologists still hoped to be able to give birth to new puppies in Malaysia thanks to two females, Puntung and Iman. The former, long sick, has been suppressed. A few days ago, on November 23rd at 11.35 pm, Iman also died: she was a 25-year-old female with cancer and lived in the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in Lahad Datu since she was captured in 2014.

Iman was the last Sumatran rhino in Malaysia. Over the centuries, this wonderful animal that once populated in Asia, especially in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Borneo area, has been virtually wiped out by hunting and deforestation and today, for the very few specimens left alive, among other things more isolated from each other due to the loss of habitats, biologists and researchers are forced to try any way – even in vitro fertilization – just to help the species survive.

"Iman has received the best care and attention since his capture, which took place in March 2014, until he died. We could not have done more," explains Minister for Tourism and Environment of the State of Sabah, Christine Law .


Artificial fertilization to save white rhinos

The rhino female had long since had a cancer that was beginning to severely damage her bladder and had been suffering for months, explained the sanctuary director Augustine Tuuga. For Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora), the association that manages the reserve where the female lived, was "the sweetest soul, which brought so much joy and hope to all of us". In a post on Facebook, the center's employees remember the pain of losing five rhinos in less than five years. Events that have brought "to the point of no return, or the disappearance of the last Sumatra rhinoceros in Malaysia".All efforts had been attempted previously to continue to survive the species in this area of ​​the world: Tam, a male found in a palm oil plantation in 2008, had been started on a reproduction program together with Iman and Puntung, but unfortunately the attempt had not been successful.

Now the few Sumatran rhinos still alive are concentrated mainly in Kalimantan, an Indonesian Borneo. There, through laws of protection and anti-poaching, the government is trying to protect them but unfortunately among the diseases and deforestation the fate of the few remaining specimens is critical. Isolated among them, by the way, they can't even reproduce anymore. Also because of this, through some conservation-related programs, in an attempt to save them, they are trying to find and capture wild rhinos in order to be able to bring them together and start them for captive breeding. Experts are convinced that by combining the efforts of protection and reproduction in captivity one can still hope for the future of the smallest of rhinos, that of Sumatra.

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