Sudan, Earth’s Last Male Northern White Rhino, Dies at Age 45

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KENYA, Laikipia: In a photograph taken 22 May 2015 by the Kenyan Ministry of East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism (MEAACT) and made available 25 May, Commerce and Tourism, US-born model and Bollywood actress Nagris Fakhri stands with ‘Sudan’, the world’s last remaining male northern white rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a 90,000-acre conservancy in central Kenya which has made great strides in protecting and increasing rhino populations in Kenya. Fakhri was in the East African country to help raise awareness and support around conservation efforts to save rhinos from extinction. MEAACT PHOTO / STUART PRICE.

Male northern white rhinoceros’ were brought to the continent of Europe from the country of Sudan in northeast Africa for zoos that were beginning to boom across the continent. Sudan, the name of a male after the country he was born in, was captured as two year old and brought to captivity in 1975. Making Dvůr Králové Zoo within the Czech Republic home for an extended period of time, 34 years. Once funding troubles fell upon the zoo in 2009 Sudan was relocated to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, in Laikipia County, Kenya, with two other northern white female rhinos named Najin and Fatu.

Living in Kenya, the idea was that since the environment was closer to white rhinos’ natural environment, which spans Uganda, Chad, southwestern Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that Sudan and two female white rhinos, Najin and Fatu, would feel right at home. During 1960 you could count up to 2,000 wild white rhinoceros’ according to the World Wildlife Fund. Poaching and war among these creatures’ land is what has driven them so close to complete extinction. Scientists are doing all they can to keep these majestic, beautiful animals from disappearing completely off the face of the planet. There remains just two Najin and Fatu to save this subspecies from extinction.

Sudan was remembered by Joseph Thaida, his caretaker from 2012 on, as a gentle, affectionate rhino who routinely would take pictures with tourists and be the center of attention in the public sphere. Even attaining his own Tinder profile in 2017,  to bring attention to the plight of his sub-species. In the previous blue text link you can deposit direct donations to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy to help further the advancement of reproductive technologies needed to save the rhinos from extinction. Sperm collected from Sudan, who never mated with either Najin or Fatu, makes the workers at the conservancy hopeful that the ability to save this sub species exists.

Another hurdle facing the team is that one of the females is infertile while the other is not capable, physically, of carrying for a full term, a baby calf. Dr. Steve Ngulu, the veterinarian of Sudan had this to say on the possible solution to the problem.

“So, natural reproduction cannot take place, artificial insemination is not possible, so the only other option that we have to have a pure northern white rhino baby is to retrieve or to do something we call ovum pick-up, collect eggs from the females…”

They then would take these collected fertilized eggs and implant them in a southern white rhino who would subsequently carry the calf to term. Seeing as taking eggs from a rhino has never been done, the female who is chosen to carry the baby to term has a possibility of perishing. This would bring the northern white rhinoceros’ to complete extinction, although, this may be the only chance we have of saving them from disappearing forever.

Jeremy Del Valle

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