What happened to the Northern White Rhino?
Although it has been all but confirmed for many years, the northern white rhino is now even closer to extinction.
The subspecies is down to its final two individuals—both female—after the death of Sudan, the last remaining male, who was euthanized on Monday at the age of 45. All three of the rhinos lived in Kenya at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. He is survived by Najin and Fatu, the two females: his daughter and grand-daughter, respectively.
A veterinary team had been attempting to treat multiple infections and other conditions related to his old age for about three weeks, but were forced to make the decision after his health deteriorated further.
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
About the Northern White Rhino
The northern white rhino is one of two subspecies of white rhinoceros. The other, the southern white rhino, was saved from the brink of extinction and has made significant leaps in its conservation, making it the most common subspecies of rhinoceros in the world.
The northern white rhino is significantly smaller than the southern subspecies, with a shorter horn. In fact, the differences between them are so great, that some researchers now believe that they may be two different species altogether.
Like all other species of rhino, humans have been the driving force towards their dwindling numbers.
Poaching (illegal hunting) of all rhinos is often related to the value of their horns. It is said that on the black market, rhino horn can be sold for $65,000 USD (£46000 GBP) per kilogram.
Rhino horn is believed to have medicinal properties in many cultures. This has led to rhinos being killed in zoos and conservancies around the world. The rhinos at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where Sudan lived, are protected around-the-clock by armed guards.
According to SaveTheRhino.org, more than 7,000 rhinos have been poached in South Africa alone in the last ten years, and is only slightly declining year-on-year after peaking in 2014 at the height of a 9000 per cent five-year growth.
The future of the Northern White Rhino
Despite the fact that there are no living males, researchers are still holding out hope that the species may miraculously be saved. While the female rhinos were deemed incapable of natural reproduction even before Sudan’s death, there is still a slim possibility of artificial insemination, as the genetic material of a number of male rhinos has been preserved. Unfortunately, all attempts to implant embryos in both northern and southern white females have failed.
Sadly, Najin and Fatu may indeed be the last northern white rhinos the world ever sees. There is still hope for at least a few of the other four remaining species—but poaching numbers will need to decline drastically, and soon.