Sabah worried over deteriorating health of last male Sumatran rhino

Wildlife authorities attending to Tam, the male Sumatran rhino, at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah’s east coast. (Sabah Wildlife Department pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah wildlife authorities face a nervous wait as one of the last two Sumatran rhinos in the state is not responding well to treatment.

The male rhino, Tam, was captured at Kertam, near Sabah’s Kinabatangan east coast district, after he wandered into an oil palm plantation in August 2008.

Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) staff, SOS Rhino and WWF-Malaysia carefully coaxed Tam into a crate after a week’s operation.

They then relocated him to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve (TWR). It has been there ever since.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew said wildlife officials were increasingly concerned over Tam’s fast deteriorating health.

“His appetite and alertness have declined abruptly since last month.

“He is receiving round-the-clock attention and medication.

“Tests are ongoing, but it seems that one or more of his internal organs are not functioning well,” she said here today.

Liew said Tam had always been a favourite of the people who worked with him due to his calm and steady manner.

“Hopes of finding a mate for him were dashed when Puntung, captured in 2011, was found to have multiple cysts in her uterus.

“When Iman was captured in 2014, she was found to have massive uterine fibroids.

“These illnesses are a reflection of too few rhinos and insufficient breeding success during the last decades of the 20th century,” she said.

Puntung was euthanised in 2017 because of painful and incurable cancer.

Since 2011, all efforts in Malaysia to save the species from extinction have been focused on the application of advanced reproductive technology, including in vitro fertilisation, in collaboration with Indonesia.

“To date, all these efforts have not met with success,” Liew said.