The world is facing immense crises. Be it pollution, climate change or the accelerated rate of wildlife extinction, humanity is witnessing one of its worst phases. To add to all this, the last female Sumatran rhinoceros in Malaysia has recently passed away. And this death has now shifted the presence of this species from the critically endangered list to the extinct list for Malaysia.
This female rhino, Iman, was 25 years old. She had been suffering from cancer from the time she was apprehended back in 2014. She was living with terrible tumors growing on her bladder and she finally succumbed on 23rd November 2019, 5:35 pm local time. Her caretakers were expecting the worse but her death came earlier than they had anticipated.
This was Iman, who died aged 25 from natural causes and was Malaysia's last Sumatran rhino, meaning the species is now extinct in the South Asian country.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) November 25, 2019
Sky News reported Christine Liew, the Minister of Sabah State Tourism, Culture and Environment, saying that although everyone knew this would be happening soon, they are still deeply saddened by the passing away of this Sumatran rhinoceros.
Iman’s death was preceded by the death of the last male Sumatran rhinoceros in Malaysia, Tam. 6 months back, Tam passed away, leaving Iman all alone. Now, only Indonesia is home to these magnificent creatures where there count barely reaches 80.
The Executive Director of the International Rhino Foundation, Susie Ellis explained to National Geographic how the common public must be sensitized about the importance of these animals. They need to understand the precarious nature of how Sumatran rhinos are surviving. She was also quoted saying how the loss of Tam represented 1% of the total population.
Once found throughout Asia, Sumatran rhinoceros have now been confined to Indonesia, Sumatra, and in Indonesian Borneo. While Indonesia is home to 5 groups, 4 groups are found in Sumatra and only one small group persists in Borneo.
Poaching and loss of habitat have pushed these Sumatran animals towards extinction, much like the rest of the species of animals. In the last 2 decades, 70% of this magnificent species has been wiped off. International Rhino Foundation also believes them to be the most endangered large mammal currently.
With the numbers rapidly declining, conservationists are of the opinion that isolation will affect the ones who have managed to persist. The survival of rhinos largely depends on their mating but long periods without any such activity results in the females developing cysts in their reproductive system. They have to mate regularly to avoid this.
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Even the case of Iman and Tam was similar. While Tam’s sperm proved rather impotent, Iman also suffered from tumors which made it impossible for her to conceive, reports Save the Rhino. But the scientists have secured genetic material from both these rhinos and hope to turn them into living animals with the help of a surrogate mother in the near future.
The International Rhino Foundation and Save the Rhino are both part of the Sumatran Rhino Rescue alliance. They are up in a fight to save this species. They capture the isolated ones and try to make them mate in captivity. One of their recent successes has been with Pahu in 2018. This female was caught and kept in a breeding facility and has been doing well. She is also healthy till now from the reproductive angle.
The CEO of Save the Rhino International, Cathy Dean says that Iman’s death ought to remind us of the urgency and the importance of protecting these animals. The survival of the species in the wild now depends on the rhinos persisting in Sumatra, Borneo, and Indonesia.