Rhinos are some of the most endangered animals in the world. Different species of rhinos are also at different levels of endangerment. One critically endangered species, the Sumatran rhino, has use taken a turn for the worse, however, with the death of the last male living in Malaysia. These beautiful rhinos once roamed across the majority of Asia, however now, they have almost completely disappeared from the wild. Less than one hundred animals are believed to exist, the majority of which are probably living in captivity.
Tam, the last living male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia, who lived at a wildlife reserve on the island of Borneo, sadly passed away on Monday. Now, the only remaining member of the species in Malaysia is a female called Iman. The species, which originates from the island of Sumatra, is critically endangered due to decades of deforestation and poaching, many experts estimate that there are only 30 to 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild.
There had been numerous efforts to breed Tam with two captured females, however all attempts proved unsuccessful. He was aged 30 or more when he died and had been living at a reserve in the Malaysian state of Sabah since being discovered wandering in a palm oil plantation in 2008. He will be sorely missed.
The Sumatran rhino
Today, only five rhino species can be found, two of which are in Africa and the other three in Asia. The Sumatran rhino, Dicerorhinus sumatrensis, is one of the Asian ones and is actually the smallest living rhino species, this is, as long as it survives. The rhino is closely related to the woolly rhinoceros, a species which became extinct about 10,000 years ago, making these Sumatran rhinos incredibly special.
While many would hope this Tam’s death could have benefits prevented, it was simply what nature had decided to do. Malaysian officials said Tam was believed to have died of old age, during the announcement of his passing. This should be confirmed though following a post mortem on him.
Save the Rhino International has made a comment on the species. Cathy Dean, CEO of the London-based charity, said that despite the death of Tam, there was still hope that the species could be saved from extinction. Poaching and habitat loss has hit the species hard. However, the biggest threat facing the species today is the fragmented nature of their populations. Due to logging, development of roads and highways, there’s little forest left for these rhinos to live. Therefore, it’s getting increasing more difficult for these animals to find each other to mate and breed successfully.
Even though the rhinos are naturally solitary animals, a lot of hopes rest on one last attempt to to bring together male and females rhinos to breed. It is estimated, by experts, that as few as 20 unrelated rhinos could offer enough genetic diversity so save the species from extinction. This is an extremely bold statement and many people will be relying on it. These beautiful animals are nearly gone but hopefully, they’ll make a strong come back in the near future!