20th March 2018
Yesterday, Sudan, the last remaining Northern White male rhino closed his eyes for the final time on a world that has abused and slaughtered his subspecies of rhino into extinction. Sudan, 45 years old, was being treated for age-related health issues that led to degenerative changes in his muscles and bones, combined with extensive skin wounds. His condition worsened significantly in the last 24 hours; he was unable to stand up and was suffering a great deal. He leaves behind two elderly female northern white who are tragically past their age for breeding.
The poaching crisis of the 1970s and 80s, fuelled by demand for rhino horn in Traditional Chinese Medicine in Asia and dagger handles in Yemen, wiped out the northern white rhino populations in Uganda, Central African Republic, Sudan and Chad. The last remaining wild population made up of 20-30 rhinos in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo succumbed to fighting in the region during the 1990s and early 2000s. By 2008, the northern white rhino was considered by most experts to be extinct in the wild.
The last few wild rhinos were taken into captivity, but a breeding programme was unsuccessful due to the rhinos losing their instinct to breed once out of the wild.
It was decided to return them to Africa to the Ol Pejeta reserve in a last minute hope they would reproduce and save the species, but by this time, all the rhinos had lost their ability to breed. The only hope for saving this rhino from extinction now lies in developing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques using eggs from the two remaining females, stored northern white rhino semen from the males, and surrogate southern white rhino females.
It has been reported that the very last female Sumatran rhino in Malaysia is also on sick watch, after a ruptured tumour has left her fighting for her life. Do these creatures mark an end of an era as conservation experts claim we are entering the 6th mass extinction?
With 60% loss to the worlds wildlife since 1970, we should be worried, we should be very worried. As rainforests fall, wilderness is converted into farmland, animals are slaughtered for their body parts and the remaining animals that thrive culled as pests – it has been predicted that our planet is set to lose another third of life on earth by 2050.
“The death of Sudan doesn’t mark the death of just another rhino, it marks the death of something more significant than that – the death of an era, a place in earth’s history which can never be resurrected or replicated in its perfection ever again.” said wildlife presenter Anneka Svenska
“We on Ol Pejeta are all saddened by Sudan’s death. He was an amazing rhino, 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 key moment for conservationists worldwide,” said Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta’s CEO.