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The life he lived: Photos of the last male northern white rhino

2 Northern White Rhino.. both are under heavy protection at a facility in Kenya
2 Northern White Rhino.. both are under heavy protection at a facility in Kenya

Sudan-The last male Northern White Rhino

Sudan was a northern white rhino, the last male of its kind. At the time of his death in 2018, there were only three northern white rhinoceroses globally, two of them being female.

Sudan, who was 45, lived at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. He was put to sleep after age-related complications worsened significantly.

The northern white rhino was found in several African countries, including the Central African Republic, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, and South Sudan. However, political violence in the region and rampant poaching decimated the population in just a matter of years.

Life of Sudan

Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino, was captured by animal trappers in Shambe, Sudan, in 1975, along with five other rhinos. There was another male northern white rhino in the charged group named Saut. The remaining were female- Nesari, Nola, Nadi, and Nuri.

This group of six northern white rhinos was then shipped to Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic for their display.

While in the Czech Republic, Sudan fathered three calves, Nabire in 1983 and Najin in 1989. The third calf was born prematurely and died soon after birth.

The Dvůr Králové Zoo was the only one where northern white rhinos had successfully given birth.

However, no calves were born after 2000, as the rhinos were getting older.

Under the “Last Chance To Survive” breeding program, Sudan and the other northern white rhinos were moved to the Ol Pejeta Conservatory in December 2009. The natural habitat of Ol Pejeta was expected to encourage the rhinos to mate, thereby saving a species from extinction. However, all attempts of breeding with Sudan were unsuccessful.

In 2009, Sudan and another male named Suni, and two females — who were in fact Sudan’s child Najin and granddaughter Fatu — were relocated to Kenya. With climate situations and natural vegetation closer to the northern white rhino’s native habitat, the semi-wild setting at the conservancy in Nanyuki was designed to improve their possibilities of breeding.

Sudan spent the final years of his life in the Ol Pejeta Conservatory and his daughter Najin and granddaughter Fatu.

So sad to learn of 45-year old Sudan’s passing. This is the last Northern White Rhino!
So sad to learn of 45-year old Sudan’s passing. This is the last Northern White Rhino!

Sudan dies in Kenya

Sudan suffered from a leg infection towards the end of 2017. Medical treatment ensured that his condition improved in the subsequent months. However, the disease returned, and despite intensive care, Sudan’s health deteriorated quickly.

On 19th March 2018, Sudan was euthanized after suffering from several age-related complications.

At the time of his death, Sudan has spent nearly a decade under 24-hour armed surveillance at the Ol Pejeta Conservatory in Kenya. He was 45 years old and suffered from painful degenerative changes in his muscles and bones in his final days.

Sudan serves as a symbol of ongoing rhino conservation and a reminder of the danger of extinction that many species face today.

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The last of the species

There are now only two northern white rhinoceros remaining in the world. Najin and Fatu, Sudan’s daughter and granddaughter respectively, live under round-the-clock protection from poachers at the Ol Pejeta Conservatory in Kenya.

However, scientists have not given up and are trying all possible means to resurrect the species. They are trying in vitro fertilization of the eggs extracted from Najin and Fatu with the semen of Sudan.

In September 2019, scientists from Avantea Laboratory in Italy announced that they have successfully created two northern white rhino embryos. Since the only remaining members of the species are female, this was a considerable achievement. Unfortunately, due to age issues and reproductive tract issues, neither Najin nor Fatu is able to carry a pregnancy to full term.

The scientists had also announced that a couple of the eggs had developed into the blastocyst stage. Now, scientists will attempt to transfer these eggs into a surrogate southern white rhino at a later date to hope that a northern white rhino calf is born.

If the attempt succeeds, this will perhaps be the first time that a virtually extinct mammal with no living males has been brought back to life.

Interesting facts about the northern white rhino

Sadly, the northern white rhino is a living example of the miseries that can befall a species due to human influence. Here are some interesting facts about them that you should know:

  • Contrary to their name, the northern white rhino is not white but more of a grey colour. The word “white” in the title is a misinterpretation of the Dutch word “wijde” which means wide.
  • It is the third-largest African mammal, after the elephant and hippo. A northern white rhino can weigh anywhere between 1700 and 2400 kgs.
  • Many people believe that rhino horn has curative powers, which is one reason behind their rampant poaching.
  • Northern white rhinos are challenging to breed. They have a gestation period of around 16 months, and females can’t get pregnant till they are about 6 or 7 years old. Also, they can only give birth every 3 to 4 years.

Ami Vitale is a National Geographic photographer based in Montana. Follow her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Photo editors: Bernadette Tuazon and Natalie Yubas

Fatu, right, grazes with her mother and a southern white rhino hours after Sudan passed away.
Fatu, right, grazes with her mother and a southern white rhino hours after Sudan passed away.

 

sudan the last male northern white rhino

sudan the last male northern white rhino

sudan the last male northern white rhino

sudan the last male northern white rhino

sudan the last male northern white rhino

sudan the last male northern white rhino

sudan the last male northern white rhino

sudan the last male northern white rhino

sudan the last male northern white rhino