Devastating news for wildlife enthusiasts: Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino, has died. Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Dvůr Králové Zoo announced the 45-year-old rhino was euthanized at the 90,000-acre non-profit wildlife facility in Kenya on March 19 after being unable to overcome age-related muscle and bone degeneration or debilitating skin wounds. “His condition worsened significantly in the last 24 hours; he was unable to stand up and was suffering a great deal,” Ol Pejeta wrote on their Facebook page.
Ol Pejeta says Sudan escaped extinction of his kind when he was first moved to the zoo in the 1970s, and then sired two females, significantly contributing to the survival of his species. Before he was euthanized, they collected his genetic material in anticipation of advanced cellular technologies they might be able to use in future reproductive efforts.
Related: The last male northern white rhino suffers declining health
“We on Ol Pejeta are all saddened by Sudan’s death. He was a great ambassador for his species and will be remembered for the work he did to raise awareness globally of the plight facing not only rhinos, but also the many thousands of other species facing extinction as a result of unsustainable human activity,” said Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta’s CEO. “One day, his demise will hopefully be seen as a seminal moment for conservationists world wide.”
With Sudan’s death, the only remaining northern white rhinos are Sudan’s daughter Najin and her daughter Fatu, according to Ol Pejeta. In their statement, the conservancy said, “The only hope for the preservation of this subspecies now lies in developing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques using eggs from the two remaining females, stored northern white rhino semen from males and surrogate southern white rhino females.”
While Sudan died of old age, it’s worth noting that humanity is a main driver of the sixth mass extinction, which, according to a news report released last year, is killing off wildlife 100 times faster than normal.
All images via Ol Pejeta