Sudan The Last Northern Male White Rhino Is Ailing. Why Should We Care Plus Some Interesting Facts About Rhinos

Most of us by now have received heartbreaking news about the declining health of Sudan the Northern White Rhino. Only last year had he gotten into tinder in an attempt to save his subspecies. Though current reports indicate that he’s doing much better, the future looks pretty grim for him and the other Northern White Rhinos. Efforts to revive their populations have not borne fruit.  Every time a Northern White Rhino dies, the chance to save the subspecies from extinction becomes slimmer.

“…he’s extremely old for a rhino and we do not want him to suffer unnecessarily,” the conservancy said.

This is really sad. We need to respect all the animals on our planet.  here are five facts you need to know about Sudan.

  • Sudan is 42 years old.
  • He was born in Shambe, Southern Sudan in 1973.
  • In 1975, he was rescued and taken to Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic
  • Sudan, Najin, Fatu, and Suni, the last Northen White Rhinos in the world, were brought to Ol Pegeta on December 20, 2009 with the hope that they would repopulate. Suni and Najin were seen mating in 2012, but there was no conception. Suni died in 2014.
  • Sudan developed a complication on his hind right foot late in 2017 but recovered quickly. The infection has come back and there might be a chance that Sudan may have to put down if he is in too much pain –Northern white rhino update | Sudan’s health declining

Although quite popular, Northern White Rhinos are extremely rare. Together with the Southern White Rhinos, they make the only subspecies of the White Rhinos.

Many decades ago, these rhinos roamed freely in countries such as the DRC Congo, Chad, Uganda, Central African Republic and Sudan. Today, there are only three Northern White rhinos in the world. They live at the Ol Pajeta conservancy, Kenya. The captive population consists of two females and one male. The three are old and are unable to reproduce through natural means.

The immense decline of these iconic species can be attributed to poaching. For a long time, the ivory market in Asia contributed to massive executions of Northern White Rhinos in Africa. The uncontrolled hunting during the colonial era also led to a swift decline of wild populations.

Concerned conservationists rescued a few and took them to zoos in Czech and USA. Little did they know that these few individuals would be the last naturally birthed Northern White Rhinos.

What the World Risks Losing

The world has already lost. Northern White Rhinos are already functionally extinct in the wild. With that clear and out of the way, we cannot ignore the efforts that have been ongoing for years to revive the Northern White Rhino populations.

Many would then wonder, why not just let them go extinct? A much insane question would be,

Isn’t extinction part of the evolution process?”

There are many reasons why these intensified efforts have been made. Northern White Rhinos have unique functions;

  • They are “keystone species, which means, they shape the habitats. Through their selective grazing habits, they diversify plant life and create prime grazing patches for other herbivores. Losing them would have devastating effects since no other species in the Savannah can fill this ecological niche. With the extinction of rhinos in the wild, plant and animal species interacting with the rhino will also experience dramatic changes in their numbers or also risk being endangered or also facing extinction. Already, a study on this is being conducted on Kruger National Park, South Africa.
  • They are umbrella species, meaning that by conserving the rhinos, we conserve other species that are equally sensitive to their habitat. Take an example of Ol Pajeta and the massive 700 acre range allocated for the three white rhinos.  If in the wild, conserving such huge tracts of land for rhino habitat will also protect other endangered species such as the birds in the Savannah. Losing rhinos would make it more difficult to conserve since each of the sensitive species with smaller home ranges would need more funding.
  • They are among the big five. The term ‘big five’ was coined by trophy hunters as they referred to the most dangerous animals to hunt on foot. Later on, it came to be used on a lighter note by marketers to mean the most fascinating game to spot during wild safaris. Kenya is proud to have both black and white rhinos. The awkwardness of losing either subspecies will be felt in generations to come.

Interesting facts about Northern White Rhinos

  • Northern white Rhinos are grey (not white) and square-lipped to allow grazing. This is unlike the black rhinos that have pointy lips to allow for browsing.
  • Their life expectancy is up to 50 years. The oldest male Northern White Rhino (as of March 2018) is 45 years old. Their gestation period is 16 months.
  • Northern White rhinos can run at an impressive speed of 50km/hr despite having poor eyesight and heavy weight. They however have excellent hearing and smelling senses.
  • They love mud baths. The mud baths act as sun screen and while the layer protects their remarkably sensitive skin from parasite bites.
  • Sudan is currently the last male Northern White rhino on earth. He currently lives in Ol Pajeta with two female companions, Najin and Fatu. The future is quite grim for Sudan as he has been diagnosed with an age related infection on one of his hind limbs.
  • Sudan joined Tinder in 2017 to save the Northern White Rhino subspecies. Read more about it here.
  • There are ongoing efforts to save the Northern White Rhinos using In Vitro Fertilization and Stem cell engineering in Italy.

Image credit: @BiologistDan

Sudan: The Last Northern White Rhino in the World

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