The last male northern white rhino known to be in existence has died. This means the subspecies now consists only of two female northern white rhinos, leaving scientists left with the hope that IVF can be used to fight against extinction, though the approach has yet to yield meaningful results.
The last known male northern white rhino, who was named Sudan, was living at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. He was relocated there from a Czech zoon in 2009.
Sudan was 45-years-old, which certainly qualified him as old considering most consider the average lifespan of the male northern white rhino to be between 35 and 40. He contracted an infection in his back right leg, and when it became clear he was not going to recover, euthanizing him was deemed the best approach.
“We on Ol Pejeta are saddened by Sudan’s death,” said Richard Vigne, the conversancy’s CEO.
“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 many thousands of other species facing extinction as a result of unsustainable human activity,” he stated.
“One day, his demise will hopefully be seen as a seminal moment for conservationists worldwide.”
Sudan was captured in the wild in 1973, according to a report by IFL Science. At the time, it was estimated that only 500 of his subspecies were alive in the wild, with a few additional dozens living in captivity.
Now, there are only two.
Samples of Sudan’s DNA were frozen before his death, including sperm, in hopes that IVF could be used to help bring the subspecies back.
Scientists intend to harvest eggs from the two surviving females of the subspecies and use a southern white rhino as a surrogate. However, this process has never been used successfully in rhinos before, so it is unknown whether it will work.