Not looking good for Tam


Struggle to heal: Tam being cared for by his caretakers at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah

Struggle to heal: Tam being cared for by his caretakers at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The health of Malaysia’s last surviving male Sumatran rhino is fast fading.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said serious concerns were growing over the health of the rhino named Tam, whose appetite and alertness had declined abruptly since late April this year.

“It is now well into old age for a Sumatran rhino,” he said in a statement yesterday.

“It is receiving round-the-clock attention and medication. Tests are ongoing but it seems that one or more of its internal organs are not functioning well,” added Tuuga.

Tam was found wandering in an oil palm plantation in Kretam, Sabah, in August 2008 and was thought to be in its mid-20s at the time of its capture.

After a week of being fed and befriended by the department staff, local non-governmental organisation SOS Rhino (now known as the Borneo Rhino Alliance) and WWF-Malaysia, Tam was coaxed into a crate, and brought to facilities in Tabin Wildlife Reserve, where he has lived ever since.

Tuuga said Tam had always been a favourite of the people who worked with it or visited it due to its calm and steady manner.

However, hopes to find a mate for Tam were dashed when female rhino Puntung, captured in 2011, was found to have multiple cysts throughout its uterus, and Iman, captured in 2014, 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.

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

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

To date, neither have met with success.

Rhinos have not been seen in Sabah’s jungles for over a decade.