Sudan, the last male northern white rhino in the world, has died, pushing the sub-species to imminent extinction.
At the age of 45, Sudan, the only remaining male of his sub-species, died at Ol Peteja Conservancy in Kenya on March 19th, 2018. He was being treated for age-related complications that led to degenerative changes in muscles and bones as well as extensive skin wounds. Over the last 24 hours, his condition worsened as he was unable to get on his feet. It was at this moment when the veterinary team from the Dvůr Králové Zoo, Ol Pejeta and Kenya Wildlife Service agreed to put him down him to end his suffering.
“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, his demise will hopefully be seen as a seminal moment for conservationists world wide,” said Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta’s CEO.
A poaching epidemic in the 1970s and 1980s – driven by demand for rhino horn in Asia – wiped out northern white rhino populations in Uganda, Central African Republic, Sudan and Chad. By the late 1990s, the last surviving population in Democratic Republic of Congo were killed. By 2009, four rhinos – two males and two females – remained of the subspecies, and they were translocated from Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic to Ol Pejeta, where it was hoped the climate and rich grasslands would encourage successful breeding.
Initially, efforts were successful, but attempts to breed from Sudan’s daughter and granddaughter have been unsuccessful, leaving the only hope for the breed’s survival in the hands of costly advanced reproductive technology that has never been tried before.
“Sudan was the last northern white rhino that was born in the wild. His death is a cruel symbol of human disregard for nature and it saddened everyone who knew him. But we should not give up. We must take advantage of the unique situation in which cellular technologies are utilized for conservation of critically endangered species. It may sound unbelievable, but thanks to the newly developed techniques even Sudan could still have an offspring,” said Jan Stejskal, Director of International Projects at Dvůr Králové Zoo. “We will be happy for everyone who will help us in our joint effort.”
During his final years, Sudan came back to Africa and stole the heart of many with his dignity and strength. Now there are only two female northern white rhinos on the planet; his daughter Najin and her daughter Fatu, who remain at Ol Pejeta were they live under 24-hour surveillance, and fed a supplemented diet to guarantee their survival.
The estimated cost of IVF – from the development of the method, to trials, implantation and the creation of a viable breeding herd of northern whites – could be as much as US$ 9 million. Ol Pejeta and Dvůr Králové Zoo are asking supporters to donate towards this campaign in memory of Sudan, to help raise the funds needed before it’s too late. Visit http://donate.olpejetaconservancy.org/projects/sudan. For supporters, based in the UK, please donate on www.helpingrhinos.org/sudan-tribute.