Yesterday, the world’s last male northern white rhino, Sudan, died. It is a great loss. Surviving Sudan, there is only his daughter, Najin, and granddaughter, Fatu. Now, his subspecies is in great danger of going extinct. 

Sudan lived at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, where he’s been sick for many months.  He was plagued with age-related degenerative health problems, and also suffered from infections and many skin wounds. Sudan was no longer able to stand on his own. At the time of his death, Sudan was 45 years old – about 90 in human years.

But why does the death of this one rhinoceros leave such a profound impact?

To begin, it might help to understand a little bit more about rhinoceroses. There are five species, and one of those species is the white rhinoceros. Within this species, there are two subspecies. One subspecies is the southern white rhino, and it’s estimated that there are about 20,000 southern white rhinos in the world today.

However, the endangered northern white rhino sub-species consisted of only Sudan, and his two female family members. Now, in order to keep his subspecies alive, in vitro fertilization methods must be developed.

In a statement from the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, CEO Richard Vigne said, “[Sudan] was an amazing rhino, 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 the many thousands of other species facing extinction as a result of unattainable human activity.”

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