Last of a dying breed: Why hope is running out for the northern white rhino

Last of a dying breed: Why hope is running out for the northern white rhino
The only hope for the northern white rhino (Picture: Barcroft)

This is Sudan, a northern white rhino, and he is the final hope to save a dying species.

But, at 42, time is running out because his back legs are weakening and his sperm count is lowering meaning he may not be able to mount a female and sire more offspring.

He’s the last northern white rhino on the planet and is under constant armed guard at Ol Pejeta conservancy in Kenya’s Laikipia.

LAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: 15 year old Southern White Rhino Fatu and 25 year old Northern White Rhino Najin, the female White Rhino that it is hoped Sudan a Northern White Rhinoceros will mate with at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya. THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

CEO Richard Vigne explained: ‘Sudan is quite an old animal as far as rhinos are concerned – he’s an old animal and he’s going to die soon, I think that’s the reality.’

And when he does die, that will mean extinction.

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Last of a dying breed: Why hope is running out for the northern white rhino
(Picture: Barcroft)

Born in Sudan, then taken to a zoo in the Czech Republic, he was eventually taken to Kenya in 2009 for a ‘Last Chance to Survive’ Breeding programme.

Last year the only other male, Suni, died, leaving all hope pinned on Sudan.

*** EXCLUSIVE - VIDEO AVAILABLE *** *** STRICT ONLINE EMBARGO UNTIL 00:01 GMT ON THURSDAY 16/07/2015 *** LLAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: Sudan, a Northern White Rhinoceros is protected by armed guards John Mugo and Daniel Maina at Ol Pejeta Conservancy on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya. THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

Richard said: ‘It really came to a head with the death of Suni last year, the other remaining male northern white rhino – he was much younger than Sudan.

‘These animals have been kept in captivity for a long time and there’s been little success at breeding northern whites in captivity.

LAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: 15 year old Southern White Rhino Fatu and 25 year old Northern White Rhino Najin, the female White Rhinos that it is hoped Sudan a Northern White Rhinoceros will mate with at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya. THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

‘Sudan is 42-years-old and the quality of his sperm is not particularly great.

‘His ability to mount a female is almost non-existent because of his problems with his back legs.

*** EXCLUSIVE - VIDEO AVAILABLE *** *** STRICT ONLINE EMBARGO UNTIL 00:01 GMT ON THURSDAY 16/07/2015 *** LLAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: Sudan a Northern White Rhinoceros at Ol Pejeta Conservancy with his care keeper Joseph Thuita on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya. THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

‘It was always going to be a shot in the dark. We had the last remaining potentially reproductively viable northern whites left in the world and to recover a species from that level was always going to be a long shot.’

But Richard believes there is still hope for the northern white rhino.

*** EXCLUSIVE - VIDEO AVAILABLE *** *** STRICT ONLINE EMBARGO UNTIL 00:01 GMT ON THURSDAY 16/07/2015 *** LLAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: Sudan the last male northern white rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya.  THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

With the rhinos failing to reproduce naturally, Richard believes artificial methods could still save the sub-species.

The team are now looking at using southern white rhinos as surrogates to carry northern white fertilised eggs to create a pure bred northern white calf.

*** EXCLUSIVE - VIDEO AVAILABLE *** *** STRICT ONLINE EMBARGO UNTIL 00:01 GMT ON THURSDAY 16/07/2015 *** LLAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: Keeper Zacharia Mutai with Sudan a  Northern White Rhinoceros who lives at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya. THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

‘The problem with that is the technology to do it is yet to be developed in rhinos, so we have to develop the technology and the ability to do it with rhinos before we try to do it on the last remaining northern whites,’ Richard explained.

Another option is artificially inseminating southern white rhinos to create cross-bred offspring.

*** EXCLUSIVE - VIDEO AVAILABLE *** *** STRICT ONLINE EMBARGO UNTIL 00:01 GMT ON THURSDAY 16/07/2015 *** LLAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: Keeper Zacharia Mutai at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya. THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

Whilst Richard admits the current population of northern white rhinos could die out – he believes developments in science will bring them back from extinction in the future.

‘The chances are the living animals that we have on the planet today will die off and disappear before we are able to develop the techniques to recover the species,’ Richard said.

 

*** EXCLUSIVE - VIDEO AVAILABLE *** *** STRICT ONLINE EMBARGO UNTIL 00:01 GMT ON THURSDAY 16/07/2015 *** LLAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: Keeper Zacharia Mutai with Sudan a  Northern White Rhinoceros who lives at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya. THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

‘But we’ll have preserved enough of the genetic material that in the future we could create calves and live animals on the ground.

‘There’s quite a few cell cultures from the various different rhinos that have existed in zoo conditions which are now in storage.

 

*** EXCLUSIVE - VIDEO AVAILABLE *** *** STRICT ONLINE EMBARGO UNTIL 00:01 GMT ON THURSDAY 16/07/2015 *** LLAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: Keeper Zacharia Mutai with Sudan a  Northern White Rhinoceros who lives at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya. THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

‘In time, when the science allows it – we could create egg and sperm cells to create an embryo for implantation in a southern white.

‘It’s a scientific process referred to as de-extinction.’

 

LAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: 15 year old Southern White Rhino Fatu and 25 year old Northern White Rhino Najin, the female White Rhinos that it is hoped Sudan a Northern White Rhinoceros will mate with at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya. THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

According to the World Wildlife Fund as late as 1960 there were more than 2,000 northern white rhinos in the world – but intense poaching has brought the sub-species to the brink of extinction.

Richard said: ‘Humans are 100% to blame for what’s happened to rhino populations across the planet.

 

*** EXCLUSIVE - VIDEO AVAILABLE *** *** STRICT ONLINE EMBARGO UNTIL 00:01 GMT ON THURSDAY 16/07/2015 *** LLAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: Sudan, a Northern White Rhinoceros is protected by armed guards John Mugo and Daniel Maina at Ol Pejeta Conservancy on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya. THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

‘Like every rhino the northern whites face demand for their horn.

‘As demand has increased the incentive for people to kill rhino to supply horn has increased.

 

LAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: A female white rhino with rhino Care Giver Zacharia Mutai at Ol Pejeta Conservancy  on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya. THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

‘The northern whites we have here are semi-domesticated, their used to humans and therefore their easily approachable.

‘There’s huge incentive for poachers to kill rhinos illegally, and because their approachable we protect them closely to prevent poaching.

 

*** EXCLUSIVE - VIDEO AVAILABLE *** *** STRICT ONLINE EMBARGO UNTIL 00:01 GMT ON THURSDAY 16/07/2015 *** LLAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: Sudan the last male northern white rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya.  THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

‘Rhino horn is worth more than cocaine in the Far East.’

Ol Pejeta are trying to raise funds to ensure the future of the northern white rhino.

*** EXCLUSIVE - VIDEO AVAILABLE *** *** STRICT ONLINE EMBARGO UNTIL 00:01 GMT ON THURSDAY 16/07/2015 *** LLAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: Sudan, a Northern White Rhinoceros is protected by armed guards John Mugo and Daniel Maina at Ol Pejeta Conservancy on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya. THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

To fund the artificial breeding programme could cost between $1million and $4million.

The current campaign is running at http://www.gofundme.com/olpejeta where people can contribute to help save the northern white rhinoceros.

*** EXCLUSIVE - VIDEO AVAILABLE *** *** STRICT ONLINE EMBARGO UNTIL 00:01 GMT ON THURSDAY 16/07/2015 *** LLAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: Keeper Zacharia Mutai with Sudan a  Northern White Rhinoceros who lives at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya. THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

Rhino Keeper Zacharia Mutai said: ‘Sudan loves to be rubbed under the belly, and scratched behind the ears, it makes him feel relaxed.

‘When we call his name he often comes to us. He’s really calm because he’s used to us, but animals are unpredictable they can charge and they can attack, so even I have to be careful.’

*** EXCLUSIVE - VIDEO AVAILABLE *** *** STRICT ONLINE EMBARGO UNTIL 00:01 GMT ON THURSDAY 16/07/2015 *** LLAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: Sudan, a Northern White Rhinoceros is protected by armed guards John Mugo and Daniel Maina at Ol Pejeta Conservancy on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya. THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

Armed Guard John Mugo spends his days in the paddock with the rhinos, carrying a G3A3 assault rifle.

John said: ‘Sudan is special because he’s the last one of his kind surviving in the whole universe.

*** EXCLUSIVE - VIDEO AVAILABLE *** *** STRICT ONLINE EMBARGO UNTIL 00:01 GMT ON THURSDAY 16/07/2015 *** LLAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA, JUNE 25: Sudan a Northern White Rhinoceros at Ol Pejeta Conservancy with his care keepers Zacharia Mutai and Joseph Thuita, and armed guards John Mugo and Daniel Maina on June 25, 2015 at Laikipia County, Kenya. THIS could be the last time we see a male northern white rhino. Sudan is the last of his kind, and at the age of 42 he doesnít have much time left. After 35-years in captivity Sudan is living out his final years at Ol Pejeta conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia, surrounded by a team of armed guards. With his back legs weakening and his sperm count lowering the chances of Sudan being able to mount a female and sire more offspring diminishes daily. PHOTOGRAPH BY Georgina Goodwin/Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com
(Picture: Barcroft)

‘We guard Sudan 24-hours a day around the clock to protect him form poaching.

‘He’s under threat because of his horn, we use guns to ensure the security of the rhinos.’

 

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16 July 2015 | 7:50 am – Source: metro.co.uk

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