Malaysia's last female Sumatran rhino gravely ill

Female Sumatran rhino Iman is one of just two Sumatran rhinos known to still be alive in Malaysia. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - The last surviving female Sumatran rhino in Malaysia is seriously ill, a wildlife official said Wednesday (Dec 20), with vets racing to save the critically endangered creature.

Iman is one of just two Sumatran rhinos known to still be alive in Malaysia. She lives in a wildlife reserve on Borneo island, where she is part of a captive breeding programme with the last surviving male, Tam.

But the female, who was captured several years ago from a jungle-clad valley, is suffering severe bleeding from a tumour in her uterus, said Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga.

She has emerged from her mud wallow at the reserve in Sabah state and is being treated by experienced vets, but is only drinking and has refused to eat, he told AFP.

"We hope to be able to treat the illness," he added.

Iman has suffered from the same problem before but in the past vets managed to deal with it more easily, Tuuga said.

In June another female rhino at the same reserve was put down as she was suffering from skin cancer, leaving Iman and Tam as Malaysia's only surviving Sumatran rhinos.

The smallest of the rhino species and the only Asian rhino with two horns, the creatures were declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia in 2015.

There are fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild in neighbouring Indonesia, existing in tiny herds on Sumatra island and the Indonesian part of Borneo.

Their numbers have fallen dramatically due to the rapid expansion of agricultural plantations, which has devastated their natural jungle habitat, and as they have been increasingly targeted by poachers for their horns and hide.

Sumatran rhinos are born covered in shaggy, reddish-brown fur, earning them the nickname "hairy rhino".

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