Some skin, eggs and tissue samples are all that remain of Malaysia's last rhino, Iman, who died last November after years of failed breeding attempts.
Now scientists are pinning their hopes on experimental stem cell technology to bring back the Malaysian variant of the Sumatran rhinoceros, making use of cells from Iman and two other dead rhinos.
"I'm very confident," molecular biologist Muhammad Lokman Md Isa told Reuters in his laboratory at the International Islamic University of Malaysia. "If everything is functioning, works well and everybody supports us, it's not impossible."
The smallest among the world's rhinos, the Sumatran species was declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia in 2015. Once it had roamed across Asia, but hunting and forest clearance reduced its numbers to just 80 in neighbouring Indonesia.
Iman, 25, died in a nature reserve on Borneo island within six months of the death of Malaysia's last male rhino, Tam.
The scientists plan to use cells from the dead rhinos to produce sperm and eggs that will yield test-tube babies to be implanted into a living animal.
The plan is similar to one for the African northern white rhinoceros, which number just two. Researchers in that effort reported some success in 2018 in producing embyronic stem cells for the southern white rhino.
But the process is still far from producing a whole new animal, say Thomas Hildebrandt and Cesare Galli, the scientists leading the research. And even if it worked, the animals' lack of genetic diversity could pose a threat to long-term survival, Galli told Reuters.