The last male northern white rhino was put down Monday by its caretakers after pain from a degenerative illness was too great to bear.
Sudan was one of the last three white rhinos alive, along with two females born in captivity. It was taken to the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic in 1975, where the rhinos lived until they were brought to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in central Kenya in 2009 with support of Fauna & Flora International and the Kenya Wildlife Service.
“Sudan was being treated for age-related complications that led to degenerative changes in muscles and bones combined with extensive skin wounds,” said a press release by Ol Pejeta Conservancy, “His condition worsened significantly in the last 24 hours; he was unable to stand up and was suffering a great deal. The veterinary team from the Dvůr Králové Zoo, Ol Pejeta and Kenya Wildlife Service made the decision to euthanize him.”
"It's very sad to lose Sudan because it shows clearly the extent of human greed and what sort of impact humans beings can have on nature," Samuel Mutisya, head of wildlife conservation at Ol Pejeta, told Reuters. "If we don't take care of what we have, we will definitely continue to lose it, particularly lose other species that are currently endangered.”
Now, the only northern white rhinoceros left alive are Najin and Fatu, Sudan's two female offspring.
“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," said Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta’s chief executive.
The species was almost led into extinction during the 1970s and 1980s due to poaching, as their horns are valued at about US$50,000 per kilo. Now only two females remain, and conservationists are doing everything possible to increase their numbers.
The female rhinoceros were seen mating with other northern white rhinos in the park without getting pregnant. Then, the park staff isolated the males to let the females mate with southern white rhinos and at least intercross the species, but didn't have success with that either. Both remaining females were declared unable to get pregnant shortly after by Czech specialists.
Najin (front) and her daughter Patu, the last two northern whiterhino females, graze in their enclosure at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia National Park, Kenya March 20, 2018. Photo | Reuters
Sudan's genetic material was collected just before his death in hope it can someday be used to prolongue the fate of the northern white rhinoceros.
“The only hope for the preservation of this subspecies now lies in developing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques using eggs from the two remaining females, stored northern white rhino semen from males and surrogate southern white rhino females,” said Ol Pejeta.
The northern white rhino used to live in wide areas of central Africa, including Uganda, Central African Republic, Sudan and Chad, but has been considered extinct from the wild since 2008.
Kenya had 20,000 rhinos in the 1970s, falling to 400 in the 1990s. It now has 650, almost all of which are black rhinos.
Sudan was the last of his species to be born in the wild.