Nairobi (AFP) – Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, has died in Kenya at the age of 45, after becoming a symbol of efforts to save his subspecies from extinction, a fate that only science can now prevent.
When Sudan was born in 1973 in the wild in Shambe, South Sudan, there were about 700 of his kind left in existence.
At his death, there are only two females remaining alive and the hope that in-vitro fertilisation techniques will advance enough to preserve the sub-species.
Sudan, elderly by rhino standards, had been ailing for some time, suffering from age-related infections, according to his keepers at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
Ol Pejeta said that Sudan’s condition worsened in the last 24 hours and was suffering a great deal. The veterinary team made the decision to euthanise him.
Sudan lived out his final years on a 90,000-acre reserve of savannah and woodlands in central Kenya, along with the two remaining females.
Ironically, Sudan’s death comes as hundreds of scientists and government envoys gather in Colombia at a biodiversity crisis summit.
Rhinos have few predators in the wild due to their size.
However, demand for rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine and dagger handles in Yemen fueled a poaching crisis in the 1970s and 1980s that largely wiped out the northern white rhino population.
A final remaining wild population of about 20-30 rhinos in the Democratic Republic of Congo died out during fighting in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was in 2008 when the northern rhino was declared extinct.
In the 1970s, Sudan was shipped to the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. He did manage to sire two females while at the Czech zoo. His daughter Najin, 28, and her daughter Fatu, 17 are the two females left alive at Ol Pejeta.
Then in 2009, Sudan, another male and the two females were shipped to Ol Pejeta in Kenya, with high hopes that conditions similar to their native habitat would encourage breeding.
The other male rhino, Suni, died of natural causes in October 2014.