It’s a sad day as we mourn the loss of the last male northern white rhino, Sudan who lived in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. In a post put out by National Geographic, they confirmed that Sudan passed away at the age of 45 due to poor health and other age-related issues. “This is a creature that didn’t fail in evolution,” said Thomas Hildebrandt, head of reproduction management at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin and one of the project’s leaders. “It’s in this situation because of us.”

At 45, Sudan was an elderly rhino, and his death was not unexpected. Hunted to near-extinction, just two northern white rhinos now remain. Najin, Sudan’s daughter, and Fatu, his granddaughter, both at the conservancy. While the southern white rhino is relatively safer with almost 2000 of them in protection, it is the northern white rhino that took a heavy hit due to war, poaching and being hunted for their horn.

To prevent the species from completely dying out, researchers and scientists have come up with an innovative idea to use IVF or in vitro fertilization to help repopulate the species. While this method is commonly used on humans and livestock, the procedure has never succeeded on a white rhino before. Conservationists hope to extract Najin and Fatu’s eggs; fertilize the eggs in vitro with banked sperm, and then implant the embryos in surrogate southern white rhino females.

While this may seem like a farfetched idea, recent developments and technology can actually make this a reality. While some fear that repopulating only using a mother and daughter may lead to a lack of genetic diversity, others feel it’s a necessity. No doubt, there is a long way to go but we do really hope they manage to break through and give this majestic and charismatic animal another chance.

It’s truly a sad thing to see how human greed has robbed so many species of their lives. When do we stop and how much is too much? It’s a sad day and for now, we will sit with our fingers crossed.

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