Only one of three of its subspecies, Sudan came to represent the last hope, protected by round-the-clock armed security and given a 700-acre enclosure at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
Suffering from age-related health issues and a series of infections, Sudan’s condition worsened over Sunday and Monday. He was unable to stand up, clearly suffering, leading to a decision to euthanise him by his veterinary team.
“We on Ol Pejeta are all saddened by Sudan’s death,” Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta’s CEO, said in a statement.
“He was 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 unsustainable human activity. One day, his demise will hopefully be seen as a seminal moment for conservationists worldwide.”
Sudan’s death leaves only known two northern white rhinos remaining, his daughter Najin and granddaughter Fatu, as conservationists hope the collection of his genetic material may aid future efforts at reproduction.
There’s also hope that Najin and Fatu may be able to become pregnant with in vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques, combining the two female’s eggs with stored northern white rhino semen from males and surrogate southern white rhino females.
Sudan was named for the country he was captured in. He was taken to the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, alongside five other northern white rhinos back in 1975, but was moved to the conservancy back in 2009.
Breeding efforts were unsuccessful in years gone by, in part due to Sudan’s old age. Rhinos have long been in decline due to hunting and habitat loss. Since 2006, no northern white rhino has been spotted in the wild.
The last northern white rhino death was back in 2015, when Nola died at San Diego Zoo Safari Park aged 41.