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Grim future for Iman, Malaysia’s last Sumatran Rhino

By Chris Maskilone

KOTA KINABALU: Authorities are deeply worried about the deteriorating health of the last surviving Sumatran Rhino, affectionately known as Iman, due to the spreading of tumor from her uterus to the urinary bladder.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew said based on the report from the team looking after Iman led by Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin in Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah, the prognosis looked grim.

Iman’s health is declining. SNT Pix/Credit TheStarOnline

“The problem is that the tumors in her uterus, detected soon after her capture in March 2014, have been growing in size since then. Although they are not malignant, they are spreading to her urinary bladder.

“The vets tell me that there is no way to halt the growth of these tumors, and surgery to remove them always was and still is too dangerous – there would be inevitable major blood loss that would result in her quick demise,” she told the press outside the State Assembly hall here today.

According to her, various options on the best thing to do will need to be considered based on the advice of experienced veterinarians.

“Whatever happens, I would like to assure interested parties that our interest to collaborate with Indonesia remains strong because we want to play our role to help prevent what is emerging as the first mammal species extinction of the twenty-first century.

“The Memorandum of Understanding that I understand is nearly ready to be signed with Indonesia includes collaboration on research, reproductive biology, husbandry and exchange of knowledge and experience.

“Together with our collaborators in Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Germany, we in Sabah now have the unique experience of managing the sorts of reproductive pathology that also occur in the rhinos in Indonesia, as well as the application of various advanced reproductive technologies to Sumatran rhinos,” she said.

Christina together with Augustine and her Ministry’s Datuk William Baya at the press conference. SNT Pix/Credit Tourism Ministry

Sabah Wildlife Department Director, Augustine Tuuga said Iman had lost about 44 kilograms in body weight over the past few years.

“She is not eating her normal amount and is being given supplements, The situation reminds us of the case of Puntung, who was euthanised on June 4, 2017, because her squamous cell carcinoma was incurable and she was suffering pain,” he said.

The last male Sumatran Rhinos in Malaysia, Tam died in May this year due to renal failure.

No other Sumatran Rhinos have been detected in the while, which is known to be a solitary animal.-SabahNewsToday