Up until 2009, Sudan was kept in a zoo in the Czech Republic. One of the last of endangered group, he was moved to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, where they hoped to breed the animals in the a climate more natural to the species. In October 2014, the other male, Suni, passed away, making Sudan the last male northern white rhino in the world.
Once moved to the conservancy, Sudan had to have his horn removed. While this might seem cruel at first glance, it was actually done to keep poachers away, as his species were mostly wiped out by those looking to sell their ivory. “If the rhino has no horn, he is of no interest to them,” Elodie Sampere of the conservancy said, “This is purely to keep him safe.”
It is with great sadness that Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Dvůr Králové 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). #SudanForever #TheLoneBachelorGone #Only2Left pic.twitter.com/1ncvmjZTy1
— Ol Pejeta (@OlPejeta) March 20, 2018
One of the rangers who protect Sudan, Simor Irungu explained that the team regularly had to put themselves at risk to guard him:
“With the rising demand for rhino horn and ivory, we face many poaching attempts and while we manage to counter a large number of these, we often risk our lives in the line of duty.”
Back in November last year a photo of Sudan went viral after it was posted by Biologist Dan Schneider. He directed those who wanted to help to the charity Helping Rhinos, which is dedicated to ensuring the survival of various species.
Want to know what extinction looks like? This is the last male Northern White Rhino. The Last. Nevermore pic.twitter.com/o4obIQUpaR
— Daniel Schneider (@BiologistDan) November 6, 2017
However, now it seems that Sudan’s life has come to a close. A statement released said that Sudan was euphanized yesterday after his condition “worsened significantly” and he was no longer able to stand. His muscles and bones had degenerated due to his old age, and he had suffered from a particularly bad leg infection.
I've spoken with @HelpingRhinos, #Sudan caretakers at @OlPejeta conservatory. There are still 2 female Northern White Rhinos alive, plus many many more species that need our protection. Donate here to prevent more #extincton. This is preventable! https://t.co/RVYJR3KVgY
— Daniel Schneider (@BiologistDan) March 20, 2018
The conservancy’s CEO Richard Vigne explained that while this is sad news, Sudan has done a lot to raise awareness of the plight faced by endangered species across the world:
“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 45-year-old rhino spent the last few weeks of his life in pain because a wound in his right hind leg, which then became infected.
For three consecutive days, Sudan has left his boma in the early morning and browsed in the greater enclosure. His improved mobility is an encouraging development and we hope that this continues over the coming days. pic.twitter.com/3HcsgXuVSx
— Ol Pejeta (@OlPejeta) March 9, 2018
Conservancy veterinarian Stephen Ngulu said they managed to control the infection with antibiotics and pain killers, helping him to retain his appetite, but this didn’t last. “He is an animal that is showing the will to live,’ Ngulu said recently.
Ol Pejeta wrote that Sudan had “significantly contributed to survival of his species as he sired two females”, and added that the only hope now for the preservation of the subspecies is for IVF techniques, using eggs from the two remaining females and stored white rhino semen. They also posted this photo of Sudan, which is thought to be the last taken:
It’s been raining heavily on Ol Pejeta for the past couple of days and the weather certainly seems to have lifted Sudan’s spirits. He has been able to wallow in the mud – with the careful assistance of his caregivers – something that he seems to savour. pic.twitter.com/B0bhaIL7GN
— Ol Pejeta (@OlPejeta) March 6, 2018
There is some positivity to go with the tragedy, however. The conservancy said that his genetic material was collected, and provides hope for future attempts at reproduction of northern white rhinos, of which there are still some females left, through “advanced cellular technologies”. So hopefully there will be some good news in the future for the last of the northern white rhinos.