On Saturday 23rd November 2019, at 17:35 local time, Iman, Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino, was declared dead. She was the last known specimen of her kind in the Asian country and was 25 years old. Just six months before this tragic incident, the last male Sumatran rhino had also passed away due to kidney and liver damage. The Sumatran rhino once freely roamed across Asia but disappeared due to habitat loss and increased poaching. However, the most significant threat these animals are facing is the fragmented nature of their populations. Today less than 100 Sumatran rhinos are believed to exist.
Iman, named after a river near where she was captured, had cancer and received the best care and attention until the moment she passed away. The rhino is said to have almost died on several occasions due to massive blood loss caused by uterine tumors. Iman’s death is considered a natural one and was reported to have been caused by shock. The director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, Augustine Tuuga, intimated that the rhino’s death had come sooner than expected.
The authorities hope to obtain egg cells from Iman for a proposed collaboration to protect and preserve the species. Despite the memorandum of understanding not being signed yet, the authorities are keen to pursue the issue. One way to continue preserving the species for Sabah is by managing female Sumatran rhinos with safe harvesting of gametes from living rhinos, cell culture, and reproductive pathology.
According to the state’s wildlife department, there are plans to conserve Iman’s body at Sabah Museum for exhibition.