Sad farewell for Sudan, the last of his kind

24-hour watch: During his last years, Sudan had armed guards with him at all times to protect him from poachers.

Is there a future for the northern white rhino? Sudan was the last male of his kind; now he has died, leaving his daughter and granddaughter the only two of their subspecies on the planet.

What’s happening

Sixty years ago there were 2000 northern white rhinos left; today there are two. On Monday, Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, died at the grand old age of 45. His daughter, Najin, and granddaughter, Fatu, remain, but the hope of breeding any more rhinos like them lies with science and IVF.

Find out more

There are five species of rhino, most of them critically endangered. The white rhino falls into two subspecies: southern and northern, with the northern closest to extinction. Rhinos are huge, with no natural predators; they are on the brink of extinction because poachers hunt them for their horns. These horns are sold to countries for use in traditional medicines, or as decorative handles on daggers.

Even before Sudan died, there was no hope of these rhinos breeding naturally. Last year, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the place Sudan lived, worked with a dating app to raise money to fund research into creating northern white rhinos using IVF.

Scientific intervention might be the only way to preserve this species, but is it the right thing to do?

Some say…

Perhaps we need to let the northern white rhino die out. The technology needed to create a new herd will take at least 10 years to develop and cost around £7 million. Let Sudan — and ultimately Najin and Fatu — be the urgently needed wake-up call the world needs to invest more in turning things around for endangered species that can still be saved.

Others think…

We must do everything we can to save the northern white rhino. When the West African black rhino was declared extinct in 2011 this did not alter the fate of Sudan and his kind — wake-up calls mean nothing unless they provoke action. If humans are solely responsible for a species dying out, then we are solely responsible for saving it, whatever the cost.

You Decide

  1. How can letting the northern white rhino die out help other species?

Activities

  1. Ol Pejeta Conservancy wrote a dating profile for Sudan to advertise what an amazing animal he was. Find out what other creatures are currently listed as ‘under threat’ and create profiles for them. Look for colourful images and think about what your threatened species likes to eat and the sorts of things they do. Try and get across why you think people should take more interest in these animals’ lives.

Some People Say...

“We are witnessing the extinction of a species that had survived for millions of years but could not survive mankind.”

Ami Vitale, photographer

What do you think?

Word Watch

IVF
Male and female cells are used to make embryos in a laboratory, then placed in a living surrogate mother.
Five species of rhino
Sumatran, black, white, Javan and greater one-horned rhinos.
Critically endangered
Close to extinction in the wild.
Subspecies
Two types of the same species living in different areas of the same continent.
Natural predators
A creature that would hunt the rhino as prey.
Poachers
Illegal hunters.
Breeding naturally
Mating.
Intervention
Action.

Subjects

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