There are only three remaining Northern White rhinos in the world, two females and one male, named Sudan. All three live at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and are under 24-hour surveillance by armed guards, defending the animals against poachers. The last wild Northern White rhinos were killed by poachers in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006, spelling the end of this majestic species because of human brutality and greed. Shockingly, it is estimated that at least three rhinos are killed by poachers every single day.
As his name indicates, Sudan was born in South Sudan but was captured when he was just a year old and sent to the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. Over three decades later, in 2009, he was moved to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy with two northern white females Najin and Fatu and another male, Suni, for a “Last Chance To Survive” breeding program aimed at saving the species. Suni has since passed away, leaving Sudan as the species’ only remaining male. However, attempts to have Sudan mate with the females have failed, essentially spelling the species’ impending extinction.
While there were still over 2,000 Northern White rhinos in the world in the 1960s, the species has been poached to near extinction in past decades, with just three individuals remaining today. Just as elephants are poached in huge numbers for their ivory tusks, rhinos are killed for their horns.
Rhino horn is sought as an aphrodisiac or a recreational “drug,” or a high-status gift. False rumors claiming that powdered rhino horn can cure cancer fuelled the trade and pushed prices up. The product can sell for as much as $100,000 per kilogram in illegal markets in Asia, making it more costly than cocaine. The high price it fetches means poachers are relentless in seeking it out, ready to senselessly and brutally murder thousands of animals and even going so far as to hack off the horns of live rhinos and leaving them to die from their wounds.
In reality, rhino horn is largely constituted of the same protein found in our hair and nails, keratin, and is scientifically proven to have zero medicinal properties. This essentially means that thousands of innocent animals have lost their lives because of the ludicrous belief that a part of their body could cure all our ills, when in fact, we have as high a chance of curing cancer and other afflictions by chewing on our own nails.
The Northern White isn’t the only rhino subspecies to be critically endangered. The Javan rhino was declared extinct in 2011 in Vietnam, with the Western Black rhino following suit in 2013. The Black rhino and Sumatran rhino are also classified as “critically endangered.” The Sumatran rhino is particularly threatened, not only by poaching but also by the intensification of palm oil production, leading to ravaging forest fires and the destruction of this species’ habitat.
Richard Vigne, the chief executive officer of Ol Pejeta Conservancy states that “humans are 100 percent to blame for what’s happened to rhino populations across the planet.” However, like many other species, White rhinos play a crucial role in their environments, helping to maintain Africa’s landscape. Their total disappearance would spell disaster for an entire ecosystem, as well as the planet as a whole.
It is vital that we learn from the imminent and tragic demise of the Northern White rhino and act to save other endangered species worldwide. Indeed, rhinos are not the only species facing extinction, in fact, the planet is currently experiencing its sixth mass extinction event. However, this is the first mass extinction directly caused by human activity, greed, and apathy. The urgency of the situation facing us and our planet cannot be stressed enough, we have already lost 52 percent of wildlife in the past forty years alone. Major species threatened include African elephants — with one killed by poachers every fifteen minutes for ivory — as well as orangutans in Indonesia, whose habitats are being destroyed for palm oil.
What Can You Do?
The two most important steps to help wildlife are to never support the wildlife trade by purchasing live or dead animals or animal parts and to make conscious consumer choices. This includes reducing our waste to protect the 700 marine species currently facing extinction and cutting out meat and dairy. Indeed, the toll animal agriculture is taking on our planet is putting countless species at risk.
You can learn more by reading these articles:
- How to Change Your Consumption Habits to Benefit Endangered Species
- How You Can Stop These 4 Industries From Killing the World’s Most Endangered Species
Additionally, do consider supporting organizations working tirelessly to protect rhinos from poaching and extinction, including the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where Sudan is living out his last days peacefully thanks to costly day-and-night armed protection. You can help out by donating here.
Other organizations working for rhinos and worth supporting include:
- Save the Rhino International
- Save the Rhino Trust – Namibia
- The Rhino Orphanage – South Africa
- The International Anti-Poaching Foundation
Another way of participating in the fight for wildlife is to take part in World Rhino Day (which takes place every year on September 22) and in the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, also coming up in various cities around the world on September 24.
Finally, don’t forget to spread the word to ensure we all learn from the Northern White rhino’s tragic demise.
Image source: James Suter/Instagram