Back in 2008, wildlife experts in Malaysia captured a male Sumatran rhino nicknamed Kretam on a palm oil plantation. Unfortunately he died on 27th May this year, after months of declining health. That leaves Iman, who is the only captive female, in the whole country alone. The loss of Tam has become a severe blow to the survival of this critically endangered species. There were as many as 800 Sumatran rhinos in the wild back in 1986, and there are fewer than 80 by 2018.
“It is with heavy hearts that we share the tragic news that Tam, Malaysia’s last male Sumatran rhino, has passed away.”, the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA), one of the organizations caring for Tam, announced via social media. “We will share more details in due time, but right now we need some time to mourn his passing.”, he continued.
When captured in 2008, researchers hoped that Tam would contribute to the efforts to breed more Sumatran rhinos. Tam died without reproducing, his sperm was proved to be of poor quality. Tam and Iman had been together for years, but Iman has never given birth. She was found to have a ruptured tumor in her uterus in December, 2017. There was actually another captive female named Puntung, but she also had health problems due to multiple cysts in her uterus.
The Sumatran rhinos have a relatively long gestation period of about 16 months. Also, the adult females have a single calf every four to five years while the illegal poaching is overdone. That is because of the price of their horns is as high as US$30,000 per kilogram. As for now, Malaysia’s sole remaining hope for producing new rhinos lies with the effort to artificially inseminate Iman’s eggs with a breeder’s sperm.