What We Can Learn From the Death of Sudan, the Last Male Northern White Rhino

Across the globe, wildlife advocates are mourning the death of Sudan, the last surviving male northern white rhino.

Caregivers brought Sudan to Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where a 24/7 armed security detail protected him from poachers.

While extremely sad, Sudan’s death was not unexpected. The 45-year-old rhino had suffered a series of age-related complications, and after taking a sudden turn for the worse, he was euthanized on March 19.

Sudan’s death leaves just two remaining individuals of this majestic species: his daughter Najin and his granddaughter Fatu, both of whom live in the Conservancy.

Rhinos at risk

And they’re not the only rhinos at risk of extinction. In fact, all five of the world’s rhino species are in trouble, according to the IUCN.

  • The near threatened white rhino has two sub-species — northern and southern. As noted above, just two northern rhinos remain, and there are roughly 20,000 southern rhinos.
  • The critically endangered black rhino has four sub-species: One of them went extinct in 2011, and just over 5,000 individuals remain.
  • The vulnerable greater one-horned rhino has a population of around 3,500.
  • The critically endangered Sumatran rhino numbers 100.
  • The critically endangered Javan rhino has a population of just 67.

Zacharia Mutai, Sudan’s keeper, explains why rhinos are endangered:

So sad because we end up losing such kinds of species because of human failure. People used to kill rhinos because of their horns, and many people have been believing that they’re used as medicine, but it doesn’t cure anyone at all.

Mutai is referring to the belief that rhino horns have medicinal value. But they’re actually made of keratin, the same material in human hair and fingernails, as well as turtle beaks and horse hooves.

Rhino horn is most often ground up for use in traditional Asian medicine, especially in China and Vietnam. According to the International Rhino Foundation, the powder is added to food or brewed in a tea, which is “guaranteed” to be a powerful aphrodisiac, a hangover cure or a treatment for cancer, fever, rheumatism and gout.

One rhinoceros horn has an estimated value of between $30,000 and $40,000 — and that’s precisely why poachers love them.

The organization Save The Rhino believes that more than 7,245 African rhinos have been lost to poaching in just a decade. In South Africa, 1,028 rhinos were killed in 2017, which equals just about three rhino deaths every single day.

Poaching prevention

So what can we do to prevent this unnecessary slaughter?

Writing for CNN, Jill Filipovic notes that “The response to poaching has to be holistic and global – addressing, among other things, economic need and lack of opportunity.” She’s referring to the fact that some people rely on poaching as a matter of survival. Living in poverty — perhaps with a starving family — they will do anything to get money.

But Filipovic goes on to suggest a bigger approach: The Kenya Wildlife Service needs to be controlled and refocused. The group has been accused by Human Rights Watch and others of deaths and disappearances; KWS has consistently denied the accusations.

A global approach also means looking to China, which has provided the demand for rhino horns for decades. The country banned ivory last year, but government officials must do more to protect this incredible creature.

And in the U.S., photos of Donald Trump’s sons with their African game kills aren’t improving the situation. Legislators need to ensure that these wild animals are more than trophies for the rich.

Discouragingly, a new advisory board created to reshape U.S. law on the importation of the body parts of African elephants, lions and rhinos is loaded with trophy hunters

A lasting legacy

So what does the death of Sudan tell us?

It is not enough to simply blame the poachers. The countries involved need to band together in what Filipovic calls a “holistic and global approach.”

Although scientists around the world are working to develop in vitro fertilization techniques, it’s probably too late for the northern white rhino. Sudan’s death means that this majestic sub-species may follow the northern black rhino into extinction, if the international community fails to act.

Photo Credit: Screenshot/New York Times

125 comments

Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

Thanks.

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

"There`s no point in bleating about the future of pandas, polar bears and tigers when we`re not addressing the one single factor that`s putting more pressure on the ecosystem than any other, namely the ever- increasing size of the worlds population" - Chris Packham. >>> . From 1930 the world population has risen from 2 to over 7.6 billion today. We are destroying the world`s natural habitats at an astounding rate, mostly for food production. Our roads, hospitals, schools, and houses are increasingly cramped. Resource usage per person increases every decade, while our total numbers continue to rush upwards. ALL energy efficiency gains go towards accommodating ever-increasing numbers of people.
WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR SPREADING THE WORD: NO MORE THAN 2 CHILDREN PER FAMILY.
Please view - https://www.populationmatters.org/ >>>
World Population Clock - http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

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Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIE5 months ago

Terrible and only us, humans are to blame

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joan s
joan silaco6 months ago

TYFS

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson6 months ago

Awful.

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx6 months ago

@ Mark Donner : Thanks for yr comments, informing us that indeed sperm has been collected and saved from Sudan and other male white rhino's. I'm really so happy to see that conservationists have done the necessary to try to harvest eggs from females to fertilize and implant them. I really hope this will give good results. It is the only hope that is left NOT to loose this entire species.

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