The world woke up to the very sad news this morning that Sudan, the last surviving male northern white rhino on the planet, has died.
Sudan, 45, lived at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and was put to sleep after months of age-related ill health problems.
There are now only two surviving females of the species – his daughter and granddaughter – alive in the world.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Ol Pejeta said Sudan was being treated for age-related complications that led to degenerative changes in muscles and bones combined with extensive skin wounds. His condition worsened significantly in the last 24 hours, he was unable to stand up and was suffering a great deal.
The veterinary team from the Dvůr Králové Zoo, Ol Pejeta and Kenya Wildlife Service made the decision to euthanise him.
The spokesman added: “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 Dvůr Králové Zoo. Throughout his existence, he significantly contributed to survival of his species as he sired two females.
“During his final years, Sudan came back to Africa and stole the heart of many with his dignity and strength.”
Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta’s CEO, added: “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.”
According to the BBC, 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 1980s. Poaching was fuelled by demand for rhino horn for use in traditional Chinese medicine in Asia, and for dagger handles in Yemen.
So what can you do now to help other animals like Sudan?
You can donate to charities right now like Ol Pejeta and WWF that continue to fight for the survival of rhino populations. There is even some hope that Sudan’s genetic material, which was collected yesterday, could provide a hope for future attempts at reproduction of northern white rhinos through advanced cell technologies.
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(Images: Jessica Bateman / Getty)