A 41-year-old rhino named Nola passed away last year in the San Diego zoo, leaving only three northern African white rhinos. Only one of the three is male and he is suffering from a serious illness.
According to a CNN report, the last three white rhinos are under 24-hour protection from armed security in a Kenyan conservatory. Despite their critical status as a species, they are still living under the threat of poachers.
More than 1,000 rhinos were poached in South Africa last year. The rhinos are slaughtered for their horns, which are subsequently powdered. Powdered horn is used in traditional Asian medicine and is believed to be a cure for several ailments as well as serious health conditions such as cancer.
The last male northern white rhino is named Sudan, who is 45 — this is considered elderly in rhino years. Sudan made headlines last year when dating app Tinder named him the “most eligible bachelor in the world” to help bring awareness and raise funding to save the species.
Sudan is suffering from an infection on his right leg and is not responding well to treatment.
According to a spokesperson from the Kenya conservatory, Sudan has a poor prognosis, per a report from CNN.
“Euthanasia will be explored if we feel he is suffering too much and won’t recover,” he said. “We do not want him to suffer unnecessarily. Right now, he is still feeding and walking around… albeit very little.”
As Sudan fights on, there is still hope to save the species. Six southern white rhinos have been transported from South Africa to the San Diego Zoo in an attempt to repopulate the species. Experts in reproductive biology from South Africa, Japan, the United States, and Germany are working as a team to save the northern white rhino.
They are working on a plan to use the female southern white rhinos as surrogates. The scientists are looking at an array of reproductive techniques, including embryo transplant.
Due to his old age and poor health, Sudan is unable to conceive naturally. If Sudan is to pass away, his species will not be the first of the rhino to become extinct. The western black rhino was poached to extinction several years ago.
The scientists are also exploring other options, such as inseminating other species of rhino, which will partially preserve the northern white rhino’s genetic lineage.
A recent update by the Ol Pejeta Conservancy revealed that Sudan surprised the team by walking around and taking a mud bath.