The Last Male Northern White Rhino Is Very Ill And The Only Hope For The Species

northern white rhino preservation efforts last male
Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

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.”

Sudan, the last male northern white rhino in the world. @olpejeta

A post shared by Annabel Onyango (@annabelonyango) on

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.

Northern white rhino update – Sudan's health declining So many people have supported the northern white rhinos since they arrived on Ol Pejeta in 2009, and we feel it is important to inform you that Sudan, the last male northern white rhino on the planet, is starting to show signs of ailing. At the advanced age of 45, his health has begun deteriorating, and his future is not looking bright. At the end of the 2017, Sudan developed an uncomfortable age related infection on his back right leg. It was immediately assessed by a team of vets from around the world, and responded well to treatment, healing quickly. He resumed normal movement and foraging habits over January up to mid-February, with his demeanour and general activity improving significantly. Recently, a secondary and much deeper infection was discovered beneath the initial one. This has been treated, but worryingly, the infection is taking longer to recover, despite the best efforts of his team of vets who are giving him 24 hour care, with everything possible being done to help him regain his health. We are very concerned about him – he's extremely old for a rhino and we do not want him to suffer unnecessarily. We will keep you updated on all developments. Please keep him in your thoughts.

A post shared by Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya (@olpejeta) on

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.

Today is #WorldWildlifeDay, and we have been overwhelmed by the messages of concern, touching tributes and well wishes for Sudan. It has been a tough couple of days for us here at Ol Pejeta but your encouragement has kept us (and Sudan) going. Last night, Sudan surprised us all by getting up, walking around and taking a delicious mud bath after the long waited rains arrived on Ol Pejeta. He is now resting again and will he attended by the vet team and his keepers throughout the day. As we commemorate this special day on the conservation calendar, it’s timely that we honor Sudan – the LAST male northern white rhino left on the planet. Even though he is now old and ailing; Sudan has been an inspirational figure for many across the world for years. Thousands have trooped to Ol Pejeta to see him and he has helped raise awareness for rhino conservation to millions worldwide. The two female northern white rhinos left on the planet – Najin and Fatu – are his direct descendants. Research into new Assisted Reproductive Techniques for large mammals is underway due to him. The impact that this special animal has had on conservation is simply incredible. We salute and honour you Mzee! Thousands of people have asked us how they can support Sudan and by extension, our efforts to save the northern whites via In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). This World Wildlife Day, you can support the IVF research that will help ensure that one day in the future, northern white rhinos will once again roam freely in their natural habitat. Your donation, however large or small, will take us a step closer to preventing the extinction of this rhino subspecies.(DONATION LINK IN BIO) https://donate.olpejetaconservancy.org/projects/sudan #LastManStanding #WorthMoreAlive

A post shared by Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya (@olpejeta) on

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.