With a heavy heart, I share this news and hope that Sudan’s legacy will awaken us to protect this magnificent and fragile planet. Yesterday, Zachariah Mutai comforted Sudan, the last living male northern white rhino moments before he passed away. Sudan lived a long, healthy life at the conservancy after he was brought to Kenya from Safari Park Dvur Kralov in the Czech Republic in 2009. He died surrounded by people who loved him at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya after suffering from age-related complications that led to degenerative changes in muscles and bones combined with extensive skin wounds.
Sudan has been an inspirational figure for many across the world. Thousands have trooped to Ol Pejeta to see him and he has helped raise awareness for rhino conservation. The two female northern white rhinos left on the planet are his direct descendants. Research into new assisted reproductive techniques for large mammals is underway due to him. The impact that this special animal has had on conservation is simply incredible. And there is still hope in the future that the subspecies might be restored through IVF.
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I had the privilege of following this gentle hulking creature on his journey from the snowy Dvur Kralov in the Czech Republic to the warm plains of Kenya, when he was transported with three of his fellow Northern White Rhinos in a last ditch effort to save the subspecies. It was believed that the air, water, and food, not to mention room to roam, might stimulate them to breed—and the offspring would then be used to repopulate Africa. At the time, there were 8 Northern white rhinos alive, all in zoos. Today, we are witnessing the extinction of a species that had survived for millions of years but could not survive mankind.
Photo by Ami Vitale. Vitale has a report in Adventure Journal 08 about the successful efforts to bring pandas back from the brink of extinction, and she covered efforts to save Sudan and his kin in Adventure Journal 01.