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Sudan, the last male northern white rhino in the world, dies

Sudan, with James Mwenda who was one of the six dedicated caregivers taking care of him. PHOTO Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Nairobi, Kenya | THE INDEPENDENT & AFP  | Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Dvur Kralove Zoo have announced the death of Sudan, the last male northern white rhino in the world.

Sudan was being treated for age-related complications that led to degenerative changes in muscles and bones combined with extensive skin wounds, according to a statement from Ol Pajeta. The condition of the 45-year-old rhino reportedly worsened significantly in his final 24 hours, and he was unable to stand up and was suffering a great deal.

The veterinary team from the Dvur Kralove Zoo,  Ol Pejeta and Kenya Wildlife Service made the decision to euthanize him on Monday, the statement said.

“It is with great sadness that Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Dvur Kralove Zoo announce that Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino, age 45, died at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on March 19th, 2018 (yesterday),” the statement said.

The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a “not-for-profit” wildlife conservancy in the Laikipia District of Kenya and the largest sanctuary for black rhinos in East Africa.

The northern white rhino population in Uganda, Central African Republic, Sudan and Chad was largely wiped out during the poaching crisis of the 1970s and 80s, fueled by demand for rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine in Asia and dagger handles in Yemen.

Unfortunately, Sudan’s death leaves just two female northern white rhinos on the planet; his daughter Najin and her daughter Fatu, who remain at Ol Pejeta.

Sudan was too old to reproduce and the two females, Najin and Fatu both have reproductive issues that hinder conception.

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 will be remembered for his unusually memorable life. In the 1970s, he escaped extinction of his kind in the wild when he was moved to Dvur Kralove Zoo.

Throughout his existence, he significantly contributed to survival of his species as he sired two females. Additionally, his genetic material was collected yesterday and provides a hope for future attempts at reproduction of northern white rhinos through advanced cellular technologies. During his final years, Sudan came back to Africa and stole the heart of many with his dignity and strength.

“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.

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