Worry persists as Malaysia’s last female Sumatran Rhino refuses to eat

Iman is now in her night stall so vets have better access to her. — Pictures courtesy of Sabah Wildlife
Iman is now in her night stall so vets have better access to her. — Pictures courtesy of Sabah Wildlife

KOTA KINABALU, Dec 20 — Wildlife vets are on 24-hour high alert as they watch over a constipated, dehydrated and sickly Iman, Malaysia’s last female Sumatran Rhinoceros.

Sabah Wildlife Director Augustine Tuuga said after two days, the vets finally managed to coax the animal out from her mud wallow into her night stall but Iman was still bleeding on a daily basis since a week ago and not taking in any food.

“Her prognosis is grave as she continues to bleed daily and refuse to eat her normal food.

“When she was in her wallowing pit, she would charge at whoever comes close. Every time she does that she would bleed profusely from her tumours. Her condition (bleeding from the tumours inside the uterus) caused her pain and discomfort. The pain also caused her to go off feed and water completely,” he said.

She was discovered to be bleeding from her uterine leiomyoma tumours about a week ago and could not be reached for normal treatment from her wallow pit. She was instead given steroids on two consecutive days to reduce inflammation, pain and discomfort but was “grossly dehydrated and looked pale.”

Iman’s conditions did not improve but vets are doing everything they can to treat Iman.
Iman’s conditions did not improve but vets are doing everything they can to treat Iman.

“She still refused food but took in a lot of water mixed with vitamins and minerals. Once in the chute, a rectal exam revealed severe constipation from not consuming water for the past 4 days. All hard stools were removed. The bleeding was also severe especially when she strained to defecate. She was started on fluid therapy and intravenous supplements.

“She was also given antibiotics and non-steroid anti inflammatories intravenously. She urinated few hours later. The bleeding was still obvious especially when she strained to defecate or while lying down,” said Tuuga, adding that Iman would vocalise at night from her stall.

Yesterday, Iman’s conditions did not improve but vets were doing everything they could to treat Iman.

“She urinated once. No food eaten. Blood still oozes out from her vagina. We started on intravenous fluids and supplements (10 litres) in addition to antibiotics, anti-inflammatory and some drugs to increase gut motility. We also gave retention enema. Another load of constipated faecal materials was also removed.

“She will be given about 10 to 15 litres of intravenous fluids and supplements daily. She will be monitored throughout the day and night. Rectal exam and ultrasound exam will be carried out tomorrow. We will encourage her to consume foliage and fruits.

“Although we managed to remove more of the constipated faeces we still have not seen her consuming the food offered or hung up for her. We are also not certain if she has compacted colon or caecum in which case would add to her grave prognosis,” he said.

Iman and Tam, a male rhinoceros, are the last of their kind in Malaysia. Another female, Puntung was euthanised last June to end her suffering from skin cancer.

They were captured from the wild and have been under the care of the Borneo Rhino Alliance at the Tabin wildlife reserve. The three were the nation’s hope of keeping the species alive, however captive breeding and in vitro fertilisation have failed to bring results thus far.

Neighbouring Indonesia still has a small population of Sumatran Rhinoceros.

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