Tam was in Malaysia last surviving male Sumatran rhino. Today, the 35-year-old died surrounded by his caregivers and vets at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary, which had struggled to save his kind.
“Unfortunately, Tam died on the middle of the day, around noon,” Malaysia’s Minister of Toruism, Culture and Environment Datuk Christina Liew said in a statement. “Always, everything that could have possibly done, was done, and carried out with great love and devotion.”
An autopsy will be performed, but Tam is believed to have died of multiple organ failure brought on by advanced age.
The minister said that it is “a bright spot” was that the Tam in the genome had been preserved in cell cultures.
“We hope that with emerging technologies in cell and molecular level, he can still contribute his genes to the survival of the species,” Ms Liew said.
Only one female Sumatran rhino remains in Malaysia.
The name Iman, she is about 25 years old.
When caught in 2014, she had a uterine tumors. Iman, however, is still the production of eggs. The authorities hope that this can be harvested.
“The egg will be fertilised in the laboratory by means of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) with sperm of the Indonesian male rhino. The embryos that can be produced from this process can then be implanted to a surrogate Indonesian woman mother rhinoceros,” Liew said.
The minister said in the hope a breeding program can be initiated with the Indonesian government.
Less than 80 Sumatran rhinos remain in South-East Asia.
This story was previously published in the news.com.au.