It will really be a sad day when an existing species on our planet become extinct due to human action and inaction. And this sad day is approaching fast for the northern white rhino species. Sudan, a 42-year-old northern white rhino, is the only male of this species left in the world and he is already an old and tottering animal with problematic hind legs.
Although three young female northern white rhinos are available for impregnation, but the inability of this male white rhino to mount them due to his defective hind legs and low sperm count is making it impossible to produce a progeny. With all kinds of breeding programs failing, this species of rhino is surely heading for extinction.
The conservators are doing everything they can to keep this three-ton animal alive. He is probably the only animal in the world to have a round-the-clock guard armed with deadly weapons to protect him from poachers. In fact, his prized horn has also been filed down to make Sudan a less attractive target of poachers and booty hunters.
Although born in South Sudan, this northern white rhino was caught in the Shambe region as a one-year-old. Afterwards, the Dvur Kralove Zoo in Czech Republic acquired this animal. With the dwindling northern white rhino population, Sudan was shipped back to Africa in Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy in 2009, under the ‘Last Chance to Survive’ breeding program. Here two young female northern white rhinos – Fatu, 15 and Najin, 25 –along with a male, called Suni, the only few northern white rhinos left, were already present.
As it is, breeding northern white rhinos in captivity has met with little success, this initiative too failed to produce any results. The death of Suni, the other existing northern white male rhino, in 2016 was another setback for the program. This left Sudan the only male survivor to take the species forward. Today, the northern white rhino endangered species consists of five rhinos, of which three live in Ol Pejeta, including Sudan.
The only hope to save northern white rhino from extinction is to use artificial methods of insemination. However, Sudan not only has low sperm count, but his quality of sperm is also not the best. This has prompted the conservationists to use southern white rhinos as surrogates for implanting the fertilized eggs of these rhinos in the hope of obtaining pure bred northern white rhino calves.