WWF-M'sia urges joint effort with Indonesia to save Sumatran rhino

Tam was first sighted at the Kretam plantation in Lahad Datu, Sabah in 2009. Photo credit: WWF-Malaysia / Richard Sanggul]

KOTA KINABALU: WWF-Malaysia has called on the government to enhance diplomatic efforts with Indonesia to prevent the extinction of the Sumatran rhino in Malaysia.

In a statement Tuesday (June 4), the organisation said the recent death of Malaysia's last surviving male Rhino – Tam, short for Kertam – was a reminder that a species could go extinct in our lifetime.

"The time to act on Sabah's other endangered species, such as elephants, orang utan, banteng and pangolins, is now. Another key species that is on the brink of extinction is the Malayan tiger," it said.

WWF-Malaysia said it fervently hoped the rhinos would be able to breed in captivity, even though scientists have discovered that Iman – currently Malaysia's last Sumatran rhino – could not reproduce naturally.

"Females of this species can develop cysts in their reproductive organs if they do not mate for a long period of time.

"Experts decided to use Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) to breed the remaining rhinos by collaborating with their Indonesian counterparts to exchange gametes," it said.

To expedite the collaboration, WWF-Malaysia urged the government to raise the issue at the annual 2015 Heart of Borneo Trilateral Meeting.

"However, despite the high levels of diplomatic engagement, the ART efforts have yet to take place.

"Without this intervention, and once Iman, the very last of our Sumatran rhino perishes from our soil, our rhinos will be no more.

"We hope Tam's passing will not be in vain, and we wish for Iman – the last female rhino – to galvanise our effort to perpetuate the species in Malaysia," it said.

Tam, believed to be in his 30s, died on May 27 this year, after suffering from kidney and liver damage for quite some time.

In 2017, Puntung, a female rhino, was euthanised as she was suffering from cancer.

Sumatran rhinos have not been seen in Sabah jungles for over a decade.

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