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Sudan, the last surviving male of a critically endangered rhino subspecies, has died, pushing the subspecies closer to extinction.
Sudan, estimated to be around 45 years old, was euthanized on Monday by veterinarians at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya to ease his months-long suffering of poor health, manifested by extensive skin sores and degenerative changes that made it painfully hard for him to even stand up. In human terms, he would have been a nonagenarian at his age.
There are only TWO northern white rhinos left in the world now, and both are related to Sudan.
“His death is a cruel symbol of human disregard for nature and it saddened everyone who knew him,” lamented an official from the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic, where Sudan lived until 2009, when he, along with another male, Suni, and two females, Najin and Fatu, were transferred to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in the hopes that this semi-wild locale would improve their chances of mating.
In 2014, Suni, then 34 years old, died, living only 6 surviving northern white rhinos, and only two males; the aforementioned Sudan, and Angalifu, who was living in a San Diego zoo with a female northern white rhino, Nola.
Unfortunately, Angalifu, was beyond reproductive age, and died not long after Suni. With the deaths of these two males in 2014, Sudan was left as the only surviving male.
In 2015, Nola died, as did Nabire, a female northern white rhino that had remained in the Czech zoo, leaving only Sudan, Fatu and Najin to try and save a subspecies, their close relations notwithstanding.
Sudan had sired Najin, and Fatu is the daughter of Najin, making Sudan the father and grandfather to the last two northern white rhinos. Sudan had also sired Nabire, while Suni was a half-brother to Najin through their dam.
Yes, the last breeding pairs of northern white rhinos were this closely related.
It wasn’t successful, but there’s hope that samples obtained from Sudan will allow the northern white rhino genes to survive through IVF with the more abundant southern white rhinos (estimated population 20,000) serving as surrogates.