Sumatran Rhinos Are Now Extinct in Malaysia After Death of Last Living Female
The critically endangered animals are one step closer to extinction.
The Sumatran rhinoceros is now officially extinct in its native Malaysia.
Iman, a beloved 25-year-old female, died Saturday in a sanctuary in Malaysia's Sabah state, on the island of Borneo. State officials said the rhino, who had cancer, died of natural causes.
There are now fewer than 80 Sumatran rhinos left in the world, all of which live in Indonesia.
"Iman was given the very best care and attention since her capture in March 2014 right up to the moment she passed," State Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister Christina Liew said in a statement, according to National Geographic. "No one could have done more."
In a heartbreaking post, sanctuary operators, the Borneo Rhino Alliance, said they were “thankful” the “dear sweet girl” was no longer in pain.
"We are in so much pain right now, but we are thankful that you are no longer in pain,” the Facebook post read. “May we be as strong as you in our urgent fight to save your species. May we be as courageous as you to never give up.”
Iman’s death comes just six months after the death of Tam, Malaysia’s last surviving male Sumatran rhino.
Tam lived in the same sanctuary as Iman, and workers from the Sabah Wildlife Department had long unsuccessfully attempted to breed the two animals.
Iman, who was unable to become pregnant due to uterine tumors, also previously had her egg cells harvested in the hope of breeding her with a male Sumatran rhino from Indonesia.
Once roaming plentily throughout Asia, Sumatran rhinos are now critically endangered.
The species feature on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “red list” and are classified as being one category behind being extinct in the wild and two categories away from total extinction.
Their decline has been linked to significant habitat loss, with logging and wood harvesting for fuel and furniture rampant in the forests of Malaysia. Forests are likewise being cleared for agricultural plantations as well as to make space for roads and houses.
Furthermore, climate change has an undeniable impact on the species.
Around the world, over 1 million plant and animal species could go extinct due to the ecological and biodiversity destruction caused by worsening droughts, heat waves, sea level rise, and acidification and warming of oceans.
Paaching has also been classed as a significant contributing factor to the species decline.