KOTA KINABALU: Following the death of Malaysia's last male Sumatran rhino, the Sabah government is hoping to officially seal an agreement with Indonesia on a proposed breeding programme involving the country's only surviving female rhino.
Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew said that offspring of the sole surviving female Sumatran rhino named Iman will be shared ownership with Indonesia.
"It will remain there at the Way Kambas Rhino Sanctuary in Lampung, Sumatra.
"This, of course, can only happen if the Indonesian government agrees officially," she said, adding that Sabah plans to resume discussions with Indonesia on the matter.
According to Liew, Iman is about 25 years old and has a reproductive pathology problem.
"When it was captured in 2014, it was found to have massive uterine fibroids. Despite the tumours in its uterus, Iman is still producing eggs which can be harvested.
"Experts from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Germany, will assist in egg harvesting.
"The egg can be fertilised in the laboratory through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) with sperm from an Indonesian male rhino.
"The embryo that can be produced from this process can then be implanted to a surrogate Indonesian female mother rhino," she said.
On the death of the Sumatran male Tam, short for Kertam, Liew said he was about 35 years old and considered quite old for a rhino.
"Tam's caretakers and Dr Zainal were with the rhino when he died.
"After his capture, he was brought to the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in Tabin.
"He was healthy all this while. He fell sick in April this year. His health deteriorated in May," said Liew on Monday (May 27).
Tam died on Monday afternoon. It had been suffering from kidney and liver damage for quite some time.