• Crystal Rosen

The Last Northern White Male Rhino

Updated: Apr 20


This is Sudan, the last Northern White Male Rhino who died in 2018 following health difficulties.

There are now only two Northern White Rhinos remaining.


The photograph of Sudan and his keeper Joseph Wachira was taken by Ami Vitale. Upon first seeing Sudan she stated

"When I saw this gentle, hulking creature in the Czech snow, surrounded by smokestacks and humanity, it seemed so unfair. He looked ancient, part of a species that has lived on this planet for millions of years, yet could not survive mankind."


The decline of the Northern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simumssp.cottoni) species is predominantly from poaching.

In 2009 the worth of 1kg of Rhino Horn was worth between $3000 and $60,000, the worth increasing as the population diminished.


Whilst there are many efforts to reduce poaching and conserve our wildlife they have not been great enough. Projects to surgically remove a Rhinos horn discouraged poachers, who would kill the animal to withdraw their loot. According to the IUCN The Red List poaching and civil wars in both Democratic Republic of the Congo and neighbouring South Sudan had a devastating impact on Northern White Rhino.


Whilst poaching pressure initially increased during civil unrest and war in the late 1990s, good reproduction enabled the population to remain relatively stable. However, since 2003, poaching escalated and the population declined rapidly with 11 carcasses found in a three-month period between March and May 2004. Confirmed numbers of Northern White Rhino fell from 30 individuals in April 2003 to just four in August 2005. No live rhino have been seen since 2006 or signs of live rhino (spoor or dung) reported since 2007 despite intensive systematic foot surveys. It is believed that the Northern White Rhino has probably gone extinct in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


The two remaining Northern White Rhinos are now protected under 24 hour armed surveillance at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

"His death is a cruel symbol of human disregard for nature and it saddened everyone who knew him," said Jan Stejskal, an official at Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic, where Sudan had lived until 2009. "But we should not give up," he added.

"We must take advantage of the unique situation in which cellular technologies are utilised for conservation of critically endangered species. It may sound unbelievable, but thanks to the newly developed techniques even Sudan could still have an offspring."


In 2015 it was identified that Fatu and Najin, the remaining female white rhinos were unable to reproduce naturally, so the efforts to breed with Sudan were dismal prior to his death. However, during ground breaking procedure on the 22nd August at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a team of vets successfully harvested eggs from the last two female northern white rhinos. The eggs will be fertilised with sperm from the northern white rhino bull, Sudan, and transferred to a surrogate southern white rhino mother in the near future. 


This procedure is costly but the cost of wiping a species from the face of the Earth is far greater. You can donate to the cause here



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References


IUCN Northern White Rhino Status & Location and Ecology Map - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/4183/45813838


Last two female northern white rhinos - https://qz.com/africa/1707103/scientists-make-first-in-vitro-northern-white-rhino-embryos/


Sudan and his keeper image - https://time.com/5209390/sudan-rhino-rhinoceros-northern-white/