Wednesday, 7 June 2017

One of Malaysia's Last Sumatran Rhinos Dies

By Stephanie Pappas, Live Science Contributor | June 6, 2017 01:22pm ET

One of the last three Sumatran rhinoceroses in Malaysia has died, the Borneo Rhino Alliance has announced.

The rhino, named Puntung, was about 20 years old. Her keepers at Malaysia's Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah euthanized her on June 4, eight days after discovering that the critically endangered animal had squamous cell cancer. The cancer had spread rapidly, and intensive treatment would have bought Puntung only a few more months of life penned in an indoor enclosure, the Borneo Rhino Alliance reported on its Facebook page.

"Sumatran rhinos wallow in mud for at least six hours daily and become increasingly stressed if kept in clean, closed facilities," the post read. "A stress-free life for Puntung was simply not going to be possible. And so we made the very difficult choice of ending her suffering and giving her peace." 
Dwindling rhinos
Sumatran rhinoceroses (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) are the smallest of all rhino species. They're also the most endangered, according to the International Rhino Foundation (IRF). With Puntung's death, there are only two individuals left in Malaysia: Tam, a middle-age male; and Iman, a female. Both are kept at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The Sumatran rhino is now extinct in the wild in Malaysia. In Indonesia, fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos survive in the wild. Poaching has sliced the population in half over the past 20 years, according to the IRF.

Puntung was likely a survivor of poaching herself. She was missing her front left foot, probably because it was caught in a poacher's snare when she was a baby. As an adult, she weighed about 1,150 lbs. (520 kilograms) and was known at the wildlife sanctuary for her gentle disposition. She was captured in the wild in 2011 and was brought to the sanctuary for her own protection and as a part of a failed attempt to establish a captive breeding program.

In early April of this year, Puntung developed an abscess on her jaw and was bleeding from her nostrils. After a crowdfunding effort, specialists were flown in from around the world, and Puntung had successful dental surgery on April 19, in which three infected and damaged molars were removed.

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