Extinction looms as last white male northern rhino aged 45, passes away in kenya

Sudan, the last white male northern rhino in the world, has died at the age of 45 at Ol Pajeta Conservancy in Kenya’s Laikipia County, according to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy who believed the rhino had suffered from age-related complications that led to degenerative changes in muscles and bones combined with extensive skin wounds. 

Ol Pejata on Tuesday said Sudan was put to sleep on Monday, March 19, 2018, after his condition deteriorated. His death leaves just two female northern white rhinos on the planet—his daughter Najin and her daughter Fatu, who remains at Ol Pejeta.

“His condition worsened significantly in the last 24 hours; he was unable to stand up and was suffering a great deal,” Dvůr Králové Zoo, the Conservancy said in a statement. “The veterinary team from the Dvůr Králové Zoo, Ol Pejeta and Kenya Wildlife Service then made the decision to euthanize him.”

Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta’s CEO, said Sudan’s death was a major blow to global conservation efforts, especially those aimed at saving endangered species. “We at Ol Pajeta are all saddened by Sudan’s death,” he said. “He was a great ambassador for his species and will be remembered for the work he did to raise awareness globally of the plight facing not only rhinos, but also the many thousands of other species facing extinction as a result of unsustainable human activity.

Yao Ming thanks a ranger during his visit to Ol Pejeta © Kristen Schmidt


The rhino was dubbed the most eligible bachelor, being the last male of his species. His bachelor status saw him join dating app, Tinder, in an effort to raise funds to save the northern white rhino.

“His death is a cruel symbol of human disregard for nature and it saddened everyone who knew him,” said Jan Stejskal, an official at Dvur Kralove Zoo said. “But we should not give up,” he said to AFP.

Conservation

With only two other females of his species left, the death of Sudan inches the extinction of the northern white rhinos forward. Conservationists’ and scientists’ only hope towards saving the species is through vitro fertilisation (IVF) technology using eggs from the two remaining females, stored northern white rhino semen and surrogate southern white rhino females. Sudan’s genetic material was collected on Monday for future attempts at reproducing northern white rhinos through advanced cellular technologies.

Efforts to save the species started in 2009 when the last four of the species, two males and two females, were moved from Czech Republic to Ol Pejeta. However, despite mating, the rhinos could not reproduce. The search for alternative scientific methods to save the species has been on ever since.

Both females are unable to conceive naturally, and only one is viable for IVF. “The estimated cost of IVF—from the development of the method, to trials, implantation and the creation of a viable breeding herd of northern whites—could be as much as US$9 million,” WildAid said.

Sudan, the last of his kind. Credit: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

“We must take advantage of the unique situation in which cellular technologies are utilised for conservation of critically endangered species. It may sound unbelievable, but thanks to the newly developed techniques even Sudan could still have an offspring.”

White Rhinos Extinction

In Africa, the species was wiped out by poaching that spiked in the 1970s and carries on today. Poaching has ravaged all five rhino species with South Africa having by far the largest population of rhinos in the world and more than 7,245 of the population lost to poaching in just a decade.

It is an incredibly important country for rhino conservation, with the southern white rhino originally found numbering just 50 in southern Africa, recovering from the brink of extinction—the current herd numbering around 21,000.

The smaller black rhino remains critically endangered, which interestingly has actually no colour difference from the white rhinos species (the “white” component of the name may have resulted from a mistranslation of the Afrikaans word “wyd” meaning “wide”), there are only about 5,000 left. Asian species of rhino have suffered even more, with 3,500 Indian one-horned rhinos left in Nepal and India, fewer than 100 of the longest living mammals, the Sumatran rhinos, and only about 60 Javan rhinos left in the world.