World's last male northern white rhino dies in Kenya

World's last male northern white rhino dies in Kenya

Rhino Sudan kenya
The last surviving male northern white rhino named "Sudan" is seen at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya, Jun 18, 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

NAIROBI: The world's last male northern white rhino has died, the Kenyan conservancy taking care of it said, leaving only two females of its subspecies alive in the world. 

Ol Pejeta Conservancy said in a statement it had made the decision with wildlife officials and his previous carers to euthanise on Monday the 45-year-old rhino, named Sudan, due to the rapid deterioration in his condition.

Sudan was being treated for age-related complications that had affected his muscles and bones and also gave him extensive skin wounds.

British actress Liz Hurley poses next to Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, which has died
British actress Liz Hurley poses next to Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, which has died in Kenya at the age of 45. (Photo: AFP/Carl de Souza)

The rhino had spent two weeks in late February and early March lying in his pen due to discomfort from a deep wound on his right hind leg.

"His condition worsened significantly in the last 24 hours; he was unable to stand up and was suffering a great deal," Ol Pejeta said. "The veterinary team from the Dver Kralove Zoo, Ol Pejeta and Kenya Wildlife Service made the decision to euthanise him."

Sudan had previously lived at the Dver Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic before being transported to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, about 250km north of Nairobi, where he lived with the last two females of the same species, 27-year old Najin and 17-year old Fatu.

After all attempts at getting him to mate naturally failed, conservationists last year put Sudan on dating app Tinder, hoping to raise enough money to pay for a US$9 million fertility treatment. 

NEXT GENERATION

Theoretically, the death of Sudan assures the extinction of this subspecies of rhino.

However scientists have gathered his genetic material and are working on developing in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques to preserve the subspecies.

scientists have gathered his genetic material and are working on developing in-vitro fertilisation
Scientists have gathered Sudan's genetic material and are working on developing in-vitro fertilisation techniques to preserve the subspecies. (Photo: AFP/Tony Karumba)

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.

A final remaining wild population of about 20 to 30 rhinos in the Democratic Republic of Congo was killed in fighting in the late nineties and early 2000s, and by 2008 the northern white rhino was considered extinct in the wild.

Four fertile rhinos, two males and females, were moved from the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic to Ol Pejeta in Kenya, with high hopes that conditions similar to their native habitat would encourage breeding.

However, despite the fact that they were seen mating, there were no successful pregnancies.

Sudan gained worldwide fame in 2017 after he was featured on the popular dating app Tinder in an
Sudan gained worldwide fame in 2017 after he was featured on the popular dating app Tinder in an effort to raise money for the IVF procedure - which has never been done with rhinos. (Photo: AFP/Michal Cizek)

Further efforts to mate a male southern white rhino with the females - and thus conserve some of the northern white genes - were also unsuccessful.

The other male rhino, Suni, died of natural causes in October 2014.

"Sudan was the last northern white rhino that was born in the wild. His death is a cruel symbol of human disregard for nature and it saddened everyone who knew him," said Jan Stejskal, Director of International Projects at the Dvur Kralove Zoo.

"But we should not give up. 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."

Source: Agencies/zl

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