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Sumatran rhino becomes extinct in Malaysia

November 23, 2019

With only 30 to 80 remaining around the world, the death of a 25-year-old female Sumatran rhino means the animal has become extinct in Malaysia. Decades of poaching had left the animals critically endangered.

A female Sumatran rhino
Image: Reuters/File Photo/Supri

Malaysia on Saturday reported that the Sumatran rhinoceros had become extinct in the Southeast Asian country, following the death of the last female from cancer.

The Wildlife Department in eastern Sabah state on the island of Borneo said the rhino, named Iman, died of natural causes due to shock in her system.

"Iman's death came rather sooner than we had expected, but we knew that she was starting to suffer significant pain," said director Augustine Tuuga.

Read more: Illegal wildlife trade thrives on Facebook, internet forums

Iman had uterine tumors since her capture and transfer to a wildlife reserve in March 2014.

The Sumatran rhino was declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia in 2015.

Malaysia's last male Sumatran rhino in captivity died in May this year, and Iman's death now leaves just a small number of surviving rhinos in neighboring Indonesia.

Only a few dozen left

Conservationists estimate that only about 30 to 80 Sumatran rhinos have survived, mostly on Sumatra and the Indonesian part of Borneo.

The species once roamed across Asia as far as India, but its numbers have shrunk drastically due to deforestation and poaching.

Their isolation means they rarely breed and may become 100% extinct in a matter of decades, according to conservation group International Rhino Foundation.

Read more: Scientists fertilize eggs from last northern white rhinos

Since 2011, Malaysia has tried to breed the species in captivity through in-vitro fertilization, but without success.

Sabah Environment Minister Christina Liew said wildlife officials obtained her egg cells for a possible reproduction collaboration with Indonesia.

The Sumatra rhino is the smallest of the rhinoceros species and the only rhino with two horns.

mm/sms (AP, Reuters)

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