NAIROBI, Kenya – The world’s last male northern white rhino, Sudan, has died after “Age-related complications,” researchers announced Tuesday, saying he “Stole the heart of many with his dignity and strength.”
The rhino had been part of an ambitious effort to save the subspecies from extinction after decades of decimation by poachers, with the help of the two surviving females.
The last male northern white rhino had been born in Sudan, the last of his kind to be born in the wild.
The rhino “Significantly contributed to survival of his species as he sired two females,” the conservancy said.
“Additionally, his genetic material was collected yesterday and provides a hope for future attempts at reproduction of northern white rhinos through advanced cellular technologies.”
The only hope for preserving the subspecies “Now lies in developing in vitro fertilization techniques using eggs from the two remaining females, stored northern white rhino semen from males and surrogate southern white rhino females,” the statement said.
Northern white rhinos once roamed parts of Chad, Sudan, Uganda, Congo and Central African Republic, and were particularly vulnerable because of the armed conflicts that have swept the region over decades.
Other rhinos, the southern white rhino and another species, the black rhino, are under heavy pressure from poachers who kill them for their horns to supply illegal markets in parts of Asia.
Roughly 20,000 southern white rhinos remain in Africa.