The last male northern white rhino in the world has died

Sudan
© Sudan, HelpingRhinos.org

WIth the death of Sudan, the world's last male northern white rhinoceros, the species is one step closer to complete extinction.

Well, we did it. We have killed off all the males of another iconic species, this time the incredible northern white rhinoceros. Sudan, the 45-year-old male, the last of his species, died in Kenya on March 19.

Very old in rhino years, Sudan suffered from a severe leg infection and other complications of aging. As his condition worsened he became unable to stand and the veterinary team made the sad decision to euthanize him.

Noble Sudan was captured when he was a mere two years old and lived most of his life at the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic. Eventually, as the zoo suffered financial woes and the rhinos failed to breed, Sudan was thankfully moved to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, in Laikipia County, Kenya, where he lived for the last 9 years of his life. He spent his time there with two northern white rhino females, Najin and Fatu.

"The thinking was that in a place closely resembling their homeland, they would thrive. Northern white rhinos used to be found in an area spanning Uganda, Chad, southwestern Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo," writes Eyder Peralta for NPR. "Some 2,000 existed in 1960, according to the World Wildlife Fund, but war and the poaching that funded the fighting drove them to extinction in the wild."

The poaching crisis of the 1970s and 80s was fueled by lust for rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine in Asia and dagger handles in Yemen, notes the conservancy.

While Sudan seemed to take nicely to life at his new home, he never reproduced with the females. The last remaining hope lies in the fact that his "genetic material" was collected and provides a hope for future attempts at reproduction of northern white rhinos through artificial reproductive techniques.

In a statement, Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta’s CEO, says “We on Ol Pejeta are all saddened by Sudan’s death. 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."

"One day," he adds, "his demise will hopefully be seen as a seminal moment for conservationists world wide."

Rest in peace, beautiful Sudan. May your death not be in vain.

Read more at Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Related Content on Treehugger.com