Ol Pejeta’s Northern White Rhinos to Embark on Plan B (B for Breeding!)

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Date: 
7 January 2014

Very few males on Earth will ever have the pressure that Sudan and Suni have had on their three-ton rhino shoulders over the past few years. As the only two fertile male northern white rhinos left in the world, a huge amount of funding, hoping and praying has been channelled into these boys to produce a new generation of the world’s most endangered mammal.

On December 20th, 2009, Sudan and Suni along with two female northern white rhino’s Najin and Fatu, were translocated from Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic to Ol Pejeta. All previous breeding attempts in the Zoo had been futile, and the hope was that the climate and rich grasslands of Ol Pejeta, similar to the  native habitat of this species, would provide them with more favourable breeding conditions.

These four are arguably the most pampered rhinos in the world; with 24hr armed security, a 700-acre enclosure, and lashings of nutritious goodies every evening to keep them in the best shape. But it seems that all this pampering, although keeping them safe and healthy, is just not enough to warrant a little bundle of northern white joy. Expectations were raised when Suni was seen mating with Najin in 2012, but as the gestation period of 16 months wore on, we were forced to face the fact that Najin was not pregnant.

With so few northern whites remaining it is imperative that all the stops are pulled out to try and encourage a future generation. So, our wildlife team has come up with a plan B.

northern white rhinos on Ol Pejeta northern white rhinos on Ol Pejeta
northern white rhinos on Ol Pejeta
northern white rhinos on Ol Pejeta

 

This month, a male southern white rhino will be introduced to the two northern white females, with the objective of getting them pregnant at the earliest opportunity. If this works, the hope is that the two females can produce several offspring through ‘intercrossing’ the subspecies in this way. Although these animals will not be 100% northern white rhinos, they will be conserving the important locally adapted genes for the habitats and environment that the northern white rhino was adapted for and evolved within. There is future potential for these inter-crossed offspring to be bred back with pure northern whites, and thereby increase the proportion of genes in future generations of a locally adapted genetically healthy white rhino population.

Preparations are underway for the January introduction, with the two northern white females having been separated from their male counterparts. A fine and fertile southern white male has been selected from neighbouring Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, and will be introduced into the females’ enclosure.

If all goes well, an equivalent breeding strategy will be implemented for the northern white males, with southern white females.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page and our website for more information on the introduction closer to the time, and of course, full coverage of any coverage!

Until then, visitors are still welcome to the Conservancy to visit the Endangered Species Boma - home to the northern white rhinos - and get up close and personal with the four animals.

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