Armed guards in Kenya have been stationed around the Earth’s last male Northern White Rhinoceros, Sudan, for fear of him being targeted by poachers.
The Northern White Rhinoceros, C. s. cottoni, is the rarer of the two sub-species of White Rhinoceros which has been prevalent for millions of years. With no natural predators due to their size, white rhinos had previously roamed across the African continent unphased and unabashed. However, uncontrolled hunting, loss of habitat, and poaching in the name of Eastern medicine has resulted in a drop from >2,000 animals in the 1960’s to just 5 now in 2015.
Part of a 3 rhino crash, the 40 year old Sudan was brought to the Kenyan Ol Pejeta Conservancy in 2009 from the Czech Republic along with 2 female companions, Najin and Fatu. The trio remain the only breeding individuals out of a global population of 5 Northern Whites; 2 other females currently live at Dvůr Králové Zoo, Czech Republic, and the San Diego Zoo‘s Safari Park, USA, respectively.
The move, however, didn’t leave him unscathed.
“[…] his horn has been cut off is to deter poachers,” ranger Elodie Sampere told The Dodo. “If the rhino has no horn, he is of no interest to poachers. This is purely to keep him safe.”
Critically Endangered (CE), it would seem there is little hope, however historical instances of population rebound for white rhinos, even whilst on the brink of extinction, have occurred. A small population of less than 100 individuals of the Southern White Rhinoceros was discovered in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa in 1895, and after strong efforts, numbers were boosted to what is now ~20,000 individuals worldwide, making the Southern Whites the most populous rhino species on the planet.
Sudan was mated with the older female Najin in Spring 2014, but eventhough the coupling was unsuccessful, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy remains positive:
“We will continue to do what we can to work with the remaining three animals on Ol Pejeta in the hope that our efforts will one day result in the successful birth of a northern white rhino calf.”
Read more on their efforts here: Northern White Rhino Conservation
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