Wildlife authorities fear the country's last surviving Sumatran rhinoceros, named Iman, is nearing her end
Iman has tumours in her uterus
The tumours were detected when she was taken into captivity in March 2014.
They have since spread to her bladder and cannot be removed.
"The vets said there is no way to halt the growth of these tumours, and surgery to remove them always was and still is too dangerous. There would be inevitable major blood loss that would result in her quick demise," said Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew in a press conference yesterday, 20 November, as quoted by New Straits Times.
Additionally, the female rhino has been suffering severe weight loss
This week, Iman's body weight is at 476 kilogrammes, which is 44 kilogrammes less than her average weight over the past few years.
She is also not eating her normal amount and is being given supplements.
"The situation reminds us of the case of Puntung, who was euthanised on 4 June 2017 because her squamous cell carcinoma was incurable and she was suffering," said Liew, who is also the Sabah state Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister.
Liew said the state is now in a race against time to preserve Iman's egg cells for in-vitro fertilisation
"This is because we want to play our role to help prevent what is emerging as the first mammal species extinction of the 21st century," said Liew.
Meanwhile, according to Malay Mail, Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said they will continue to try harvesting ova from Iman, which they hope will be fertilised with an Indonesian rhino's sperm.
They are currently working towards formalising an agreement to collaborate with Indonesian authorities.
The state government had previously attempted to fertilise Iman's ovum with frozen sperm from Sabah's last male rhino Kertam, who died in May this year.
However, the attempt failed as the sperm were of poor quality.