Sumatran Rhinoceros becomes extirpated in Malaysia


The Critically Endangered Sumatran Rhinoceros has become extirpated in Malaysia after the death of the last female in captivity in the South-East Asian country.

There are now fewer than 100 individuals left, with some estimates suggesting numbers are as low as 30, living in fragmented habitats across the islands of Sumatra in Indonesia. The female Sumatran Rhinoceros – the world’s smallest rhino – was named Iman and died of cancer on Saturday. She had uterine tumours since her capture in March 2014.

Sumatran Rhinoceros used to be found as far west as India, but is now Critically Endangered with possibly as few as 30 remaining in the wild (Lee Gregory).

Poaching and industrial-scale deforestation have destroyed the natural habitats in which Sumatran Rhinoceros once roamed. Iman’s death comes just six months after the death of the country’s only male rhino; another female also died in captivity in Sabah state in 2017.

Efforts to breed the species have proven futile, but Sabah authorities have harvested the cells for possible reproduction, with the chance of a collaboration with Indonesia to reproduce the species through artificial insemination.

Sumatran Rhinoceros once roamed across Asia as far as India, but its numbers have shrunk drastically due to poaching and deforestation which have left populations isolated and vulnerable. The species recently appeared in the BBC series Seven Worlds One Planet, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, drawing attention to their plight as demand for cheap palm oil has grown and seen vast swathes of rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia cleared for palm plantations.