Tam, aka Kertam, Malaysia’s last male Sumatran rhino, living in Sabah, passed away today after battling a series of health issues.
Keepers and veterinarians working with the Sabah Wildlife Department, as well as the Borneo Rhino Alliance, say that he had been in poor health for quite some time, fighting both kidney and liver damage, before he succumbed to his ailments.
A team from the Borneo Rhino Alliance had been caring for Tam in the last weeks of his life, led by veterinarian Dr. Zainal Zahari Zainuddin. Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew described it as mostly “intense, palliative care.”
Liew confirmed reports this afternoon, stating that Tam passed away at noon, and that everything possible had been done for him “with great love and dedication.”
While postmortem examinations have yet to be carried out to determine the exact cause of death, the minister elaborated that it was related to Tam’s advanced age, and multiple organ failures. However, scientists have been able to preserve his living genome in a cell culture, which she hopes “with emerging technologies at cell and molecular level, he may yet contribute his genes to the survival of the species.”
Sounding very Jurassic Park right now, Minister Liew. We like it. A lot.
Wildlife officials had hoped that Tam, along with another female Sumatran rhino, both held in captivity, would breed and continue their species lineage in Borneo. However, the two never reproduced during their shared years in captivity.
Tam had been living in a Sabah wildlife sanctuary after being caught by environmental officials when he was approximately 20 years old.
The Sumatran rhino was once abundantly found throughout Southeast Asia; however, after heavy illegal poaching, wildlife experts estimate that only 100 individuals remain, with nine being spotted in Malaysia for many years.
They are classified as critically endangered, with their population decreasing 50% per decade