On March 19 2018 Sudan, the last Northern White Rhino in the world, closed his eyes for the last time, leaving behind only two critically endangered females, his daughter and granddaughter, Najin and Fatu, and we all woke up to the shocking reality of how close the extinction of rhinos truly is.
“Sudan is an extreme symbol of human disregard for nature,”
Jan Stejskal, director of international projects at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic, where Sudan spent most of his life.
“He survived extinction of his kind in the wild only thanks to living in a zoo.”
What is more shocking is that in 1960, there were approximately 2000 Northern White Rhinos roaming the grasslands of East and Central Africa.
How did we get to this insane point almost 60 years later to have only TWO of these subspecies left?
The five species of rhino that survive today are the Black, White, Greater One-Horned, Javan and Sumatran as well as sub-species within these groups.
The Asian rhinos, Javan and Sumatran rhino, are considered to be critically endangered. The Greater One-Horned rhino, found in India, has increased in numbers up to 3,550 from only 200 in 1900. The third Asian species is listed as ‘vulnerable’.
The remaining two species are found in Africa and are the Black rhino, which is ‘critically endangered’ with only around 5,000 remaining, and the White rhinos, which are classified as ‘near threatened’.
The subspecies, which are the Western Black rhino and Northern White rhinos, are now officially extinct in the wild. The only two remaining Northern White rhinos live at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, where they are under 24 hour care.
The two main contributing factors to this major decline in rhinos have been a major poaching crisis as well as habitat loss. The Rhino horn is in high demand and one of its uses is in traditional Asian medicine and folk remedies, where it is usually ground up and used for a range of ailments.
Trophy hunting is another major factor which has been hugely contributing to the decline of this endangered species as it is an animal that is highly desired due to its rarity.
It really sickens me that people heartlessly pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to have the right to kill an endangered species like this, limiting the chance of our future generations of seeing these wonderful animals like we are able to today.
However, there is a faint glimmer of hope. Scientists have successfully managed to create two embryos, 18 months after the death of Sudan through collecting 10 immature eggs from Najin and Fatu (5 each).
“After incubation seven matured and were suitable for fertilization,” Cesare Galli, a professor based at the Avantea Laboratories in Cremona, Italy.
Jan Stejskal, director of Communication and International Projects at Dvur Kralove zoo said:
“Five years ago it seemed like the production of a northern white rhino embryo was almost unachievable goal- and today we have them.”
While it’s absolutely positive that this particular subspecies on the cusp of extinction could be saved through cloning, it is important to remember that rhinos as a whole still largely remain under threat and that more needs to be done to secure them from poaching and trophy hunting, as well as raise awareness about their decline through education, sharing stories and helping the organisations that work tirelessly to save them as a species.
Some of these organisations are:
Helping Rhinos that has several ways for you to donate or fundraise towards conservation and education initiatives that will ensure the long-term survival of the rhino as well as other endangered wildlife in their natural habitat.
I particularly like their sponsorship opportunities and I have sponsored one of the members of the Black Mambas, which is an all-female anti-poaching ranger team in South Africa. You can become a Helping Rhinos Black Mamba Sponsor from just £5 a month. https://www.helpingrhinos.org/sponsor-a-black-mamba
Tusk who have helped pioneer an impressive range of successful conservation initiatives across more than 20 countries, increasing vital protection for over 10 million acres of land and more than 40 different threatened species.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy which is is home to the two last remaining northern white rhinos, and a sanctuary for over 110 critically endangered black rhinos. The Conservancy employs highly trained rhino protection squads, partners with international veterinary experts and ensures data is gathered regularly on each individual animal.
Please lets do our bit to help them in whatever way we can, either through fundraising, donations or simply helping to raise awareness.
Let’s not get to a point in a further 60 years time where the only place we see Rhinos are in documentaries and photos.