Averting extinction: Iman, trapped in March, is unable to breed naturally owing to tumours in her womb. Her egg cells, however, can be extracted to produce embryos in the lab. —LIM CHIA YING/The Star
Last-ditch effort: Advanced reproductive technology offers hope for the Sumatran rhino's survival.
Lying chest-down in a quiet, dignified manner, Iman slowly shuts her eyes. She’s taking a rest, says her caretaker, but cutting a forlorn figure, it’s possible that she is trying to contain the discomfort from the pain inside her. A bunch of tumours are growing inside the female rhino’s womb, causing her to bleed.
Some 20 minutes later, she awakens and inches her way to the front of her enclosure to get her feed of leaves and fruits. She appears to have forgotten her pain, and happily gnaws at her food.
Here at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary (BRS) located in Tabin Wildlife Reserve near Sabah’s east coast town of Lahad Datu, I watch Iman going about her daily routine with a mixture of delight and heartbreak – delight in noting that she continues to eat like a healthy rhino, and heartbreak from the fact that she may never recover from the ailment she has been inflicted with.
The sanctuary is what she calls home now, together with two other rhinos, a male called Tam and a female named Puntung. All were captured from the wild and transferred to the sanctuary where proper care is rendered to ensure their well-being and survival.