Not every story has happy ending, Sudan, the infamous last male of Northern White Rhino has died at the age of 45. Leaving his daughter Naji and granddaughter Fatu as the last two survivors of the species, Sudan peacefully closed his eyes forever in the Ol Pejeta Conservacy in Kenya.
Sudan has gained worldwide attention since his story as the last male of the species was spread all over the world. People also has given their biggest supports to prevent the extinction of the species, but sometimes we cannot write off the fate.
The death of Sudan was actually not unexpected by most people, however. He had been living the last moments of his life in weak condition following a series of infection starting from his leg and other health problems.
Sudan was freed from all those weaknesses by a euthanasia procedure at Monday, March 19th local time. Some might think that this procedure was unnecessary since it would end all hopes to protect the species, but you should know at the first place that if we didn’t hunt them down, Sudan would have not been the last male of the species.
Yes, Sudan became the last male of his species not because of their own fault to fail evolution. The reason why the population of Northern White Rhino declined dramatically was because people hunted them down for their horns.
Northern White Rhino’s horns were believed to be a medicine for many diseases, although there is no evidence has proven that it was true. Not only that, their horns were popular material for dagger handles in Yemen too, which means that those rhinos were hunted down just for creating daggers.
There were about 2000 Northern White Rhino individuals at 1960s, yet the number had been declining drastically since then until just a few survivors left in the range of 40 years. And now, most likely all of those hopes to maintain the species are gone with Sudan’s death.
His death was a huge blow to humanity since at this age we can witness a human-caused species extinction. We are living in a modern life but we can still witness the result of human’s barbaric actions done to Sudan’s species.
“This is a creature that didn’t fail in evolution. It’s in this situation because of us,” said Thomas Hildebrandt, head of reproduction management at Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin to New York Times.
Sudan’s death means that officially the species is no longer be able to reproduce new calf and going to be extinct after the last two survivors left die. It ended his escape from extinction that he had done for about 43 years.
In 1975, when Sudan was a 2 years old calf, he was captured in the wild by animal trappers and brought to Dvur Kralove Zoo in Czech Republic. This capture actually saved him and his species from extinction that was starting to happen to his peers in the wild.
By 2009, Sudan, Najin, Fatu, and another unrelated male named Suni were moved from the zoo to Ol Pejeta Conservancy for a breeding program to save their species. However, the program was unsuccessful since although the rhinos mated, but no pregnancy was achieved.
Several years after the relocation, Suni died, leaving Sudan as the last hope of the species. And now, after Sudan had followed the fate of his comrade, theoretically we have lost the hopes to save the Northern White Rhino species from total extinction.
They cannot do the same comeback as the other white rhino subspecies, the Southern White Rhinos, had done decades ago. The southern ones could thrive back from just a few dozen to more than 20,000 individuals, but apparently such comeback didn’t happen to Northern White Rhinos.
Sudan had been the symbol of hopes the entire time of his life, but his death has changed the message. His death is a symbol of warning to human behavior and a reminding for us about how much destruction we can bring to the nature.
“Sudan is an extreme symbol of human disregard for nature. He survived extinction of his kind in the wild only thanks to living in a zoo,” said Jan Stejskal, the director of international projects at Dvur Kralove Zoo.
Poaching one animal might seem just a small act for some, but it means that the species is one individual closer to extinction. What happened to Sudan might also happen to other species of animals if our bad habit of taking advantages by killing animals continue.
“Poaching is not slowing down. It’s entirely possible, even likely, that if the killing continues, these rhinos, along with elephants and a host of lesser known plains animals, will be functionally extinct in our lifetime,” wrote Ami Vitale, a member of National Geographic Photographer who had been reporting Sudan for a long time and built special connection to the rhino, at Time.
Can We Revive Sudan?
The death of Sudan is a big blow right on our faces, but it doesn’t mean that this is the time to give up. There is another way to revive the hopes that Sudan had carried throughout his life, and in this case, we need some science.
What the conservationists are working on nowadays is to revive the hopes using a method called IVF. In this method, sex cells are going to be harvested from living both Northern and Southern White Rhinos which then developed in a lab, hoping that it will be able to produce an embryo of Southern White Rhino calf.
This is a new procedure that costs as much as $10 million with no guarantee of success. “There’s no guarantee that [IVF] will work. This is a bitter lesson of species conservation, as protection is costly, the costs of recovery are even higher,” said Philip Muruthi, Vice President of Species Protection at African Wildlife Foundation.
IVF is the task of the researchers and we cannot do much about it, except by donating some of our wealth to support it. However, we still have bigger task to do from now on. What we should do is protecting the remaining species of animals on earth so that such kind of sad ending will not happen again in the future.