The world’s last surviving male northern white rhino has died in captivity in Kenya after months of poor health. His death leaves his species on the brink of extinction.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya confirmed that Sudan, their beloved male northern white rhino, was euthanized on March 19 after suffering from increasingly worse illness over the past year. Sudan was roughly 90 in human years, could no longer stand, and was deteriorating physically and mentally. Sudan was the last surviving male northern white rhino, leaving behind just two females of his species at the conservancy. The northern white rhinos are already extinct in the wild, and when the protected females die, the species will officially be extinct, say specialists.
Sudan, the females, and another northern white rhinoceros (who died in 2014) were initially taken from the wild in the early 2000s to the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, where they were protected by armed guards 24/7. The species is going extinct because of vicious poachers who target them for their valuable horns. In China, they’re used for medicinal purposes. In Yemen, for dagger handles. Along with armed protection, handlers also sedated the rhinos and sawed down their horns to further ward off poachers who might try to break into their habitat.
After several unsuccessful mating attempts at Dvůr Králové, specialists moved them to Ol Pejeta in Kenya, hoping that a habitat that mimicked their natural living conditions would inspire breeding. It worked somewhat. “Sudan will be remembered for his unusually memorable life. In the 1970s, he escaped extinction of his kind in the wild when he was moved to Dvůr Králové Zoo. Throughout his existence, he significantly contributed to survival of his species as he sired two females,” Ol Pejeta said in a statement on Twitter announcing his heartbreaking death.
The two remaining female rhinos are Sudan’s daughter and granddaughter. There is still hope for the already rare species after Sudan’s death, though. Ol Pejeta said that they collected his genetic material, which “provides a hope for future attempts at reproduction of northern white rhinos through advanced cellular technologies.” They will be attempting to inseminate female southern white rhinos with the northern Rhino genetic material, though in vitro for rhinos is a very new technology.
It is with great sadness that Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Dvůr Králové Zoo announce that Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino, age 45, died at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on March 19th, 2018 (yesterday). #SudanForever #TheLoneBachelorGone #Only2Left pic.twitter.com/1ncvmjZTy1
— Ol Pejeta (@OlPejeta) March 20, 2018