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Last male northern white rhino takes a walk despite illness

Bernard Gitau @benagitau

Old and sick, the world’s last male northern white rhino surprised his keepers last weekend by getting up and walking around his sanctuary at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia county.

The 45-year-old rhino named Sudan moved during the night and took a “delicious mud bath’’ after long-awaited rains fell, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy said Saturday on Twitter. During the UN World Wildlife Day on March 3, the conservancy received many messages of concern for the ailing Sudan, who could be euthanised if he continues to suffer from a deep hind leg infection.

“He is now resting again and will be attended by the vet team and his keepers throughout the day,’’ said the conservancy, which is also home to white rhino subspecies on the verge of extinction because of poaching. Scientists hope to use southern white rhinos as surrogates to carry northern white rhino embryos and give birth.

Last year, Ol Pajeta kick-started a campaign in efforts to save Sudan- the only male northern whites rhino on the planet via In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). The campaign dubbed Tell your friends and make a positive impact aims to collect Sh1 million ($10,000).

By early this week, 41 supporters had contributed Sh160,500 in contributions ranging from Sh1,000 to Sh10,000. “Sudan’s health has begun deteriorating, and his future is not looking bright. He is the last male northern white rhino on the planet and his days are numbered,” said a statement from the conservancy.

This is a human failure of epic proportions; thanks to our greed and irresponsibility, a species is one significant step closer to extinction.Northern white rhinos used to roam East and Central Africa in vast numbers, but conflict, poaching and habitat loss eliminated them.

Ol Pejeta’s northern whites came in 2009 from Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic, where all breeding attempts had been futile. It was hoped that a more natural environment would stimulate more successful results, but sadly nothing changed.

Thankfully, Fatu and Najin, the last female northern white females, are still in good health, and a roadmap for their regeneration is in place. A population of more than 2,000 northern whites in 1960 shrank to just 15 in 1984. Only three are alive today.

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