Malaysia on Saturday reported that the Sumatran rhinoceros had become extinct in the Southeast Asian country, following the death of the last female from cancer.
The Wildlife Department in eastern Sabah state on Borneo island said the rhino, named Iman, died of natural causes due to shock in her system.
“Iman’s death came rather sooner than we had expected, but we knew that she was starting to suffer significant pain,” said director Augustine Tuuga.
Iman had uterine tumors since her capture and transfer to a wildlife reserve in March 2014.
The Sumatran rhino was declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia in 2015.
Malaysia’s last male Sumatran rhino in captive died in May this year and Iman’s death now leaves just a small number of surviving rhinos in neighboring Indonesia.
Only a few dozen left
Conservationists estimate that only about 30 to 80 Sumatran rhinos survive, mostly on Sumatra and Borneo (the Indonesian side).
The species once roamed across Asia as far as India, but its numbers have shrunk drastically due to deforestation and poaching.
Their isolation means they rarely breed and may become 100% extinct in a matter of decades, according to conservation group International Rhino Foundation.
Since 2011, Malaysia has tried to breed the species in captivity through in-vitro fertilization, but without success.
Sabah environment minister Christina Liew said wildlife officials obtained her egg cells for a possible reproduction collaboration with Indonesia.
The Sumatra rhino is the smallest of the rhinoceros species and the only rhino with two horns.