Photo: Jonathan Pledger/Shutterstock

The Last Male Northern White Rhino Has Died, and the Species Risks Extinction

Kenya Wildlife Sustainability
by Morgane Croissant Mar 20, 2018

Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino, had been suffering from an age-related infections for several months. Last night, to put an end to the suffering, Sudan was euthanized at the Ol Pejeta wildlife conservancy in Kenya at the age of 45.

Northern White Rhinos were poached to near extinction in the ‘70s and ‘80s to meet the demand for rhino horns in Asia and in the Middle East. They also suffered the consequences of conflict in some parts of Africa in the ‘90s and 2000s. In 2009, the last four White Northern Rhinos in the world (two males, including Sudan, and two females) were moved from a zoo in the Czech Republic to Ol Pejeta wildlife conservancy to be given a chance to thrive in their natural habitat and keep the subspecies alive.

Despite several attempts, the two females were never able to breed and with the death of Suni, the other northern white male, in 2014, there was little hope left for the subspecies.

The two White Northern Rhino females remain at Ol Pejeta. Like Sudan was, they are protected from poachers by armed guards 24/7. They are the last of their kind.

Notwithstanding the terrible plight of the subspecies, according to Ol Pejeta, conservationists and scientists are not giving up. The future of the Northern White Rhino hangs on the thread of in vitro fertilization. Semen formerly collected from Northern White males will fertilize eggs from the two remaining females and embryos will be inserted in and hopefully carried by Southern White females acting as surrogates.

Rhinos around the world

According to Save the Rhino, at the end of 2015, only around 30,000 rhinos survive in the wild. Most of them are the Black and White Rhinos of Africa — respectively listed as “critically endangered” and “near extinction” by the IUCN. The Asian species of rhinos, the Greater One-Horned Rhino (3,500+ left in the wild), the Sumatran Rhino (100), and the Javan Rhino (67) are also listed as “vulnerable” and “critically endangered.”

African Rhinos

The very aggressive poaching of rhinos in Africa has made it very difficult for these animals to survive outside of protected areas such as Ol Pejeta or Ol Jogi Ranch in Kenya. According to Save the Rhino, “In just a decade, more than 7,245 African rhinos have been lost to poaching” and despite the encouraging decrease of poached rhinos in South Africa in 2017 (from 1,054 in 2016 to 1,028 in 2017) thanks to anti-poaching units such as The Black Manbas, three rhinos are still killed every day in this country.

To learn more about rhinos, what is being done to fight the poaching crisis, and how to help, visit the Ol Pejeta, WWF, and Save the Rhino websites.

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