Western Black Rhino Extinct, Can Technology Save The African White Rhino From Extinction In 2015?

Patrick Frye

With the Western black rhino extinct, conservationists are now focused on saving the only five remaining members of the northern white rhino still in existence. It's possible that in 2015, the world may watch as the last remaining male succumbs to death, removing any chance that the sub-species may survive. But some already say there's hope of resurrecting the species based upon technology.

In a related report by the Inquisitr, the last remaining male northern white rhino is named Sudan and he lives under 24/7 guard by armed rangers. The other male named Suni died in October of 2014 under mysterious circumstances. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy hopes they may use Sudan for breeding, but losing one out of the two remaining males was a hard blow.

"Consequently, the species now stands at the brink of complete extinction, a sorry testament to the greed of the human race," the Conservancy said in a statement. "We will continue to do what we can to work with the remaining three animals on Ol Pejeta in the hope that our efforts will one day result in the successful birth of a northern white rhino calf."

This is why the so-called Rhino Rangers are so necessary. They are the last line of defense for 105 black rhinos, 23 white rhinos and three of the last five remaining northern white rhinos in existence. Despite the presence of guards, poachers still managed to kill two rhinos in the sanctuary within the past 18 months, although they did not get away with the valuable horns, which can sell for $75,000 USD per kilo, or $30,000 USD per pound.

But, wait, you might say, isn't the black rhino extinct? The International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species did in fact declare the western black rhino extinct in the fall of 2013, but in recent times the black rhino's plight has begun trending on social media. The western black rhino is truly gone, but fortunately 4,848 other African black rhinos are still alive, and population management programs even allow controversial culling programs to kill off five old, less virile bulls per year so that younger bulls can mate.

This is also why the northern white rhino faces extinction. Sudan is 43 years old and nearing the end of his expected lifespan. The remaining white rhinos suffer from poor sperm, weak knees and ovarian cysts, making the likelihood of a new baby calf fairly slim indeed. The youngest female named Fatu is only 14 years old, which sounds hopeful, but she's also infertile. For all practical purposes, this means we'll see the white rhino extinct relatively soon since it seems impossible for them to breed in the wild.

According to Jan Stejskal of the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic, the only remaining hope for the white rhino's future is technology.

"We are down to five, so they are very close to extinction, perhaps in a few years," Stejskal explained, according to Business Day. "I still believe there is hope we will be able to save them. The best we can do now is harvest sperm and egg samples for future in vitro fertilisation, and wait until the time the techniques are developed enough to give us a good chance of reproduction."

Unfortunately, these test tube rhinos are still the figments of a science fiction writer's imagination, but at this point any hope, even if relatively slim, is better than just waiting until the north white rhinos join the western black rhinos in death.

[Image via Brent Stirton / Ol Pejeta Conservancy]