Tam was Malaysia’s last surviving male Sumatran rhinoceros. The 35-year-old died May 28, surrounded by his caretakers and vets at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary that had been struggling to save his species.
“Regrettably, Tam died at mid-day, around noon,” Malaysia’s State Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Christina Liew said in a statement. “Invariably, everything that could possibly have been done, was done, and executed with great love and dedication.”
An autopsy will be conducted, but Tam is believed to have died from multiple organ failure brought about by advanced age.
The minister said the “one bright spot” was that Tam’s genome had been preserved in cell cultures.
“We hope that with emerging technologies at cell and molecular level, he may yet contribute his genes to the survival of the species,“ Liew said.
Only one female Sumatran rhinoceros remains in Malaysia.
Named Iman, she is about 25 years old.
When captured in 2014, she was found to have uterine tumors. Iman, however, is still producing eggs. Authorities hope these can be harvested.
“The egg can be fertilized in the laboratory through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) with sperm from the Indonesian male rhino. The embryo that can be produced from this process can then be implanted to a surrogate Indonesian female mother rhino,“ Liew said.
The minister said it was hoped a breeding program could be initiated with the Indonesian government.
Less than 80 Sumatran rhinos remain in South East Asia.
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