KOTA KINABALU, May 27 — Malaysia’s last surviving male Sumatran rhino, Tam, died today following health complications which worsened in the last few days.
Tam’s death did not come as a surprise for veterinarian and keepers at the Sabah Wildlife Department and Borneo Rhino Alliance as he had been suffering from kidney and liver damage for some time.
Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew said she was informed of the sad news by the Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga earlier today.
“Regrettably, Tam died at mid-day, around noon on Monday (May 27). Invariably, everything that could possibly have been done, was done, and executed with great love and dedication.
“His last weeks involved the most intense palliative care humanly possible, rendered by the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) team under veterinarian Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin, at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Lahad Datu,” she said in a statement.
According to Liew, the cause of death was related to old age and multiple organ failure but more details will be revealed after the autopsy report is completed.
Liew said there was “one bright spot” is that Tam’s living genome that is preserved for the cell culture.
“We hope that with emerging technologies at cell and molecular level, he may yet contribute his genes to the survival of the species,” she said.
Tam was one of two remaining Sumatran rhinos in Sabah that was kept in captivity with the hopes of breeding but efforts have not produced results for years.
The surviving female, Iman, suffers from a ruptured tumour in her uterus and cannot produce fertile eggs.
Tam, short for Kertam, was captured by a wildlife team in August 2008 when he was approximately 20 years old. Rhinos have not been spotted in Sabah’s wild for years.
In a statement last week, Tuuga, said Tam had showed an abrupt decline in appetite and alertness since late April this year