It is another blow to conservation efforts, but hope remains that Sudan's genetic material will one day lead to the reproduction of the northern white rhino.
Sudan, the world’s last remaining male northern white rhino was euthanased on Monday, after battling age-related health issues.
The 45-year-old rhino, who was under 24-hour armed guard at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya because of the threat of poachers, leaves behind only two other northern white rhinos on the entire planet — his daughter Najin and Najin’s daughter Fatu.
“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,” the conservancy’s CEO, Richard Vigne, said.
More than an ambassador, Sudan was part of an ambitious project to keep the subspecies in existence, and thankfully those efforts will continue as the conservancy revealed it had harvested his genetic material.
“His genetic material was collected yesterday and provides a hope for future attempts at reproduction of northern white rhinos through advanced cellular technologies,” it said on Twitter.
Additionally, his genetic material was collected yesterday and provides a hope for future attempts at reproduction of northern white rhinos through advanced cellular technologies.
— Ol Pejeta (@OlPejeta) March 20, 2018
“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.”
Sudan made headlines in 2017, after the conservancy put him on the dating app Tinder in a fundraising stunt to pay for a $9 million fertility treatment.
The campaign was called — “The most eligible bachelor in the world”.
Sudan had a pretty persuasive blurb for his Tinder bio too: “I don’t mean to be too forward, but the fate of the species literally depends on me… I perform well under pressure. I like to eat grass and chill in the mud. No problems. 6 ft tall and 5,000 pounds if it matters.”
Kevin Pietersen says humans failed his kind
There has been an outpouring of emotion as news flooded in about Sudan’s demise.
Cricketer Kevin Pietersen, who has his own conservation initiative called ‘Sorai’ (Save Our Rhinos in Africa and India) and has long championed their protection, posted a number of tributes in honour of the rhino.
And in the caption of one, he wrote — “We as humans have to get better!”
BREAKING – From a population of 40,000 Northern White Rhinos, there are only 3 left today. Sudan was the last known male in the world. Since 2009, he was under on 24-hour protection by armed guards in Kenya. HE DIED TODAY! We as humans failed him and so many more! We need to get better! #RIPSudan. #SORAI
Why they are being wiped out
More than 1,000 rhinos were slaughtered last year, and that tally goes up to 7,000 in Africa over the past decade.
Why? Because of the demand for rhino horn in Asian countries, particularly Vietnam. It is used in traditional Chinese medicines, and is also seen as a symbol of success and wealth. They can fetch up to $50,000 a kilo, making them more valuable than gold.
A Traffic report late last year, revealed criminal networks of Chinese origin are operating in South Africa and “processing rhino horn locally into beads, bracelets, bangles and powder to evade detection and provide ready-made products to consumers in Asia”.
Because of this, the white rhino populations in Uganda, Central African Republic, Sudan and Chad have all been wiped out.
Heartbreaking news. #Sudan, the last male northern white #rhino on our planet, died yesterday in Kenya.
Rhino poaching grew by 9,000% in 10 years. Let's all learn from this sad loss and increase measures to end #WildlifeTrafficking.
— UNODC (@UNODC) March 20, 2018