Sudan, The Last Male Northern White Rhino Dies At The Age Of 45

Atmaj Vyas , 21 Mar 2018

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.”

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Photo by @amivitale With a heavy heart, I share this news and hope that Sudan's legacy will awaken us to protect this magnificent and fragile planet. Yesterday, wildlife ranger Joseph Wachira, 26 comforted Sudan, the last living male Northern White Rhino left on this planet moments before he passed away. Sudan lived a long, healthy life at the conservancy after he was brought to Kenya from @safari_park_dvur_kralov in the #Czechrepublic in 2009. He died surrounded by people who loved him at @olpejeta after suffering from age-related complications that led to degenerative changes in muscles and bones combined with extensive skin wounds. Sudan has been an inspirational figure for many across the world. Thousands have trooped to Ol Pejeta to see him and he has helped raise awareness for rhino conservation. The two female northern white rhinos left on the planet are his direct descendants. Research into new Assisted Reproductive Techniques for large mammals is underway due to him. The impact that this special animal has had on conservation is simply incredible. And there is still hope in the future that the subspecies might be restored through IVF. In 2009, I had the privilege of following this gentle hulking creature on his journey from the snowy Dvur Krulov zoo in the Czech Republic to the warm plains of Kenya, when he was transported with three of his fellow Northern White Rhinos in a last ditch effort to save the subspecies. It was believed that the air, water, and food, not to mention room to roam, might stimulate them to breed—and the offspring would then be used to repopulate Africa. At the time, there were 8 Northern white rhinos alive, all in zoos. Today, we are witnessing the extinction of a species that had survived for millions of years but could not survive mankind. Follow @olpejeta and @amivitale to learn more what we can all do to #coexist. @natgeo @natgeocreative @olpejeta @kenyawildlifeservice @thephotosociety  #SudanForever#WorthMoreAlive #OlPejetaRhinos #NorthernWhiteRhinos #protectrhinos #DontLetThemDisappear #rhinos #saverhinos #stoppoaching #kenya #northernkenya #africa #everydayafrica #photojournalism #amivitale #extinction

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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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