Sudan, a 45-year-old northern white rhino who was the last chance for his subspecies’ survival, passed away at a Kenyan reserve. He was surrounded by folks who had cared for him for over a decade.
It is with great sadness that Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Dvůr Králové Zoo announce that Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino, age 45, died at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on March 19th, 2018 (yesterday). #SudanForever #TheLoneBachelorGone #Only2Left pic.twitter.com/1ncvmjZTy1
— Ol Pejeta (@OlPejeta) March 20, 2018
Sudan was named for the nation where he was born in the wild, and when he was young, he was sent to the Dvr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, where he spent the most of his life. Sudan was moved to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya in 2009, where he shared a home with two younger female rhinos, Fatu and Najin, in the hope that living in a more natural setting would encourage the animals to procreate, rescuing the subspecies from extinction.
Sudan, the only male of his type, was guarded 24 hours a day by armed guards desperate to keep him safe from poachers. To stop poachers from hurting him, his horn was also removed.
However, the elderly Sudan and his possible mates were unable to reproduce. Recognizing that they were in a race against time, the team at Ol Pejeta set about devising a new solution.
“Preparations for the long-awaited treatment that is intended to help preserve the northern white rhinos from extinction have begun in Kenya and Europe,” the conservancy said on December 5, as Sudan’s health began to deteriorate. “With only three old northern white rhino animals remaining, this subspecies is on the verge of extinction unless new representative offspring are born.”
Experts from Dvr Králové Zoo, IZW Berlin, and the Avantea Institute in Cremona, Italy, have been working on a strategy to preserve northern white rhinos from extinction for the past two years. They want to utilize a southern white rhino surrogate to bear an embryo generated through in vitro fertilization from a northern white rhino. Sperm from now-deceased northern white rhino males has been kept for this purpose in Berlin, Germany. Northern white rhino eggs will be collected from Najin and Fatu, who are 28 and 17 years old, respectively, and fertilized in the lab.
“The destiny of the northern white rhino subspecies is dependent on the success of this operation,” Ol Pejeta stated.
This new rhino conservation method has never been tried before, and the extent to which individuals are willing to go to rescue this subspecies is a hopeful silver lining to the terrible reality of decreasing rhino populations.
All rhinoceros subspecies are threatened by black market demand for their horn; keratin from this source is so important because of the false notion in Asia that it can heal anything from hangovers to cancer (even though keratin is the same substance as your fingernails).
Whereas millions of rhinos previously roamed over Africa and Asia, it is believed that just approximately 30,000 rhinos exist across all five species.
Sudan’s health took a turn for the worst early this year when he developed an age-related infection in his leg. He began to respond positively to therapy, but he soon became unable to stand and had to be put down. He will be sadly missed.
Sudan, rest in peace.