The last male northern white rhino has died, leaving only two female survivors.
Sudan was once dubbed the “most eligible bachelor in the world” by Tinder (they would know) but had been in poor health as of late. He was 45 years old and getting tired.
He passed away peacefully at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale was able to photograph Sudan before he passed.
“It was heartbreaking yesterday, but I was relieved I could say goodbye,” Vitale said. “He leaned his head right into me and then the rains came pouring down, just as they had when he arrived here nine years ago.”
Sudan first came to Kenya from a zoo in the Czech Republic in 2009 after the species had dwindled to only eight in the world due to poachers. The Conservancy protects the remaining rhinos with round the clock surveillance. The keepers grow close with the animals they protect, often seeing them before they see their own children. The day Sudan passed was a hard day at Ol Pejeta.
“When he was first brought back to Africa, there were these torrential rains,” Vitale remembered. “I realized it was the first time he had rolled in African mud since he was a young rhino. It was a beautiful watching him reconnect with where he came from.
Then yesterday when those rains came, he perked up. He was lying down, and he just pushed his head right up.”
Sudan’s legacy could still live on, though. Scientists have saved some of Sudan’s genetic material, and they hope to use in-vitro fertilization to bring the subspecies back. Even if the Northern White Rhino can’t be saved with in-vitro, there are other endangered rhinos who can be.
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