December 19, 2017

Iman the Rhino is gravelly Ill

Iman the Rhino is gravelly Ill

Iman is the last female Sumatran rhino in Malaysia. Photo Credit: YouTube

In June Puntung, one of Malaysia’s last two female Sumatran rhinos, succumbed to an especially acute form of skin cancer. Conservationists and animal lovers alike lamented her passing.

They took comfort in the fact that the other female rhino, Iman, remained relatively healthy and strong. This continued to kindle hope that Malaysia’s last female rhino could still be used in an artificial breeding program undertaken by wildlife officials and experts of the conservationist group Borneo Rhino Alliance in order to bring the species back from the very edge of extinction in Malaysia.

Iman within her enclosure at the Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo Credit: Sabah Wildlife Department

Sadly, though, now Iman too has fallen gravelly ill. One of the benign tumors discovered on her uterus has started bleeding. “It is believed that one of the larger tumours might have ruptured and is causing pain and bleeding,” Augustine Tuuge, director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, explained.

Iman, who is kept at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu in Sabah, has had recurrent health problems but responded well to treatment. “Usually (the bleeding) can be treated with medication and supplements,” the director noted. “This time Iman is refusing to leave her mud wallow and hardly eating, so the usual treatment has not been possible,” he added. “She also charges at anyone who comes near her paddock.”

Such irritable behavior is a sure sign that she is suffering from pains. Her keepers are watching her closely to see if there are any changes in her condition. Making matters worse is that heavy rains have turned the rhino’s enclosure into a quagmire.

Iman was the very last Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) known to have survived in the wild in Malaysia when she was captured in the Danum Valley and taken to the forest reserve in Lahad Datu in early  2014. She was taken from her forest so as to save her from the threat of being killed by poachers. Upon closer inspection she was found to have severe fibroids in her uterus, but she remained fertile so experts have continued to hope that her eggs could be used for in-vitro fertilization attempts in a captive-breeding program.

Such last-ditch attempts are all that is standing between Sumatran rhinos and their extinction in the wild. It is believed that no more than 100 rhinos survive in Indonesia, albeit their number may be even fewer than that at just three dozen or so. Only two rhinos are left in Malaysia: Iman as well as Kretam, a mature male that was captured in August 2008.


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