Sadly, there’s only one male northern white rhino left on the planet. Sadder still, it appears that this lone animal is starting to develop some health problems, bringing the northern white rhino species dreadfully close to extinction.
Sudan, the last male northern rhino in the world, is 45 years old and lives inside Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy. He lives with two other female rhinos, making them the last three members of the species in the world. The conservancy reported earlier this month that Sudan’s health started to deteriorate, even with veterinarians taking care of him 24 hours a day.
Towards the end of 2017, Sudan developed an infection on his rear leg. For a while, it appeared that the infection was getting better and the animal was recovering. Now it seems that infection has returned to the same area.
Officials from the conservancy have stated that they are very concerned for Sudan and that they don’t want him to suffer, especially at his age.
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy received the rhinos from a Czech zoo in 2009. At that time, there was also a second male in the group, who has since passed away.
Scientific procedures are currently underway to use southern white rhinos as surrogate mothers for carrying the embryos of northern white rhinos. The sperm of dead white rhinos has been saved at a facility in Berlin. This sperm could be used in an in vitro process, along with collected eggs from the surviving white rhino females in Ol Pejeta.
The northern white rhino has taken a rapid decline in the past several years. The San Diego Zoo had a few members in their care, but the last of the species died in 2015. As for natural habitats, northern white rhinos once were pretty prevalent in the Congo, Sudan, Chad, and Uganda. In fact, estimates suggest that in 1960 there were as many as 2,000 members left in existence.
The cause for the near extinction is poaching. The market for ivory horns in Vietnam and China have caused this magnificent animal to be nearly wiped out. Poaching has threatened other rhino species as well. The Sumatran and Javan rhinos are expected to have fewer than 100 members left in each subspecies.
UPDATE: Sudan died on Monday, March 19th. That leaves only two members of the species left—the females Najin and Fatu. At this point, any hope for the survival of the species lies with science and the in vitro process.