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Malaysia's Last Remaining Sumatran Rhino Dies

Roughly 80 members of the species remain in the wild, all in Indonesia.

National Geographic reports that Iman, Malaysia's final Sumatran rhinoceros, died of cancer last Saturday. Iman was a female, while the country's last male rhino passed in May.

Christine Liew, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment of Sabah State, on Malaysian Borneo, said: "Iman was given the very best care and attention since her capture in March 2014 right up to the moment she passed. No one could have done more."

Iman and Tam, the male, lived in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Conservationists attempted to breed the rhinos, but these efforts did not succeed.

As with so many other species around the world, poaching and habitat loss have devastated the Sumatran rhino population. With the majestic animals disappearing from Malaysia, they only remain in the wild on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan, as well as the country's section of Borneo. 

According to Nat Geo, given the scarcity of these animals, isolation is now the biggest threat to the future of the species, as females can develop reproductive tract ailments if there is too much time between mating sessions.

Given this grave challenge, the Sumatran rhino is part of a global conservation effort called the Sumatran Rhino Rescue, which aims to safely capture as many wild rhinos as possible and bring them together for captive breeding.

In late 2018, the project offered a glimmer of hope, as a female rhino was captured on Borneo without harm. The next step is to find a male and bring him into the reserve and attempt to mate.

This species is the smallest of the rhinos in physical size, and they also have the fewest remaining in the wild.

Indonesia is now the only country in Southeast Asia with wild rhinos. Vietnam's last Javan rhino was killed by poachers in 2010 so that its horn could be removed.

[Top photo via Global Wildlife Conservation]