Malaysia's last Sumatran rhino dies, dealing blow to critically endangered species

Malaysia's last Sumatran rhino dies, dealing blow to critically endangered species
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The last male Sumatran rhinoceros in Malaysia died Monday, weakening the endangered species's chance of survival, according to animal conservation organizations.

With the death of Tam, the male rhino, the already-low Sumatran rhino population dips closer to extinction, ABC News reported. The International Rhino Foundation estimates fewer than 80 are alive today.

The remaining living rhinos are scattered in the wild, limiting their chances to breed, according to the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA).

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The rhino species has long been threatened by years of poaching for their horns, as well as habitat loss due to human population grown and farming.

The Sumatran rhinos, the closest living relative to the woolly rhinos that roamed during the Ice Age, have been hit with severe population declines since the early 20th century, according to BORA.

Tam died surrounded by BORA veterinary staff who cared for him since 2008, when he was rescued from a palm oil plantation and placed in a care facility in Sabah’s Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

Susie Ellis, executive director of the International Rhino Foundation, said in a statement conservationists had “high hopes” Tam could have been a founding member of a “successful captive breeding program.”

“Sadly, those hopes were repeatedly dashed over the next decade by a series of incidents, some sociopolitical, some biological, and some simply bad luck,” she said.

Tam’s death follows a report released earlier this month by the United Nations that found 1 million plant and animal species worldwide are threatened with extinction.