The last Sumatran rhino in Malaysia has died, following the death of the last surviving male earlier this year.
Imam, a 25-year-old female rhino, died of cancer at 5.35pm local time on Saturday, in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.
Her death means the species is now extinct in Malaysia, only surviving in small numbers elsewhere, mostly in Indonesia.
Augustine Tuuga, director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, said: "Iman's death came rather sooner than we had expected, but we knew that she was starting to suffer significant pain."
Imam had been cared for in a wildlife reserve since her capture in 2014, with her species declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia back in 2015.
Sabah State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christine Liew added: "Its death was a natural one, and the immediate cause has been categorised as shock.
"Iman was given the very best care and attention since her capture in March 2014 right up to the moment she passed."
Conservationists estimate that only around 30 to 80 Sumatran rhinos survive, meaning the species has now almost disappeared from the wild.
Reuters reports that many of the remaining animals exist on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and on the Indonesian side of Borneo.
Malaysia's last male Sumatran rhino, Tam, died in May last year, after being found in an oil palm plantation in 2008 and transferred to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in the state of Sabah.
Margaret Kinnaird, wildlife practice leader for WWF International, told National Geographic at the time: "Tam's death underscores how critically important the collaborative efforts driving the Sumatran Rhino Rescue project are."
Kinnaird continued: "We've got to capture those remaining, isolated rhinos in Kalimantan and Sumatra and do our best to encourage them to make babies."
Efforts were made to breed Tam with two female rhinos - Imam, and another called Puntang who had to be euthanised in 2017 due to cancer - through in-vitro fertilisation, but these proved unsuccessful.
Kinnaird said: "We hung so much hope on Tam to produce offspring in captivity, but that hope was dashed when the remaining two females at Tabin were unable to carry fetuses."
According to the BBC, Sumatran rhinos have been his hard by poaching and habitat loss. However, the biggest threat the faces the species today is the 'fragmented nature of their populations', with the last remaining animals mostly scattered across areas of Indonesia.
Featured Image Credit: PA
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