The northern white rhino is a subspecies of white rhino, which used to range over parts of Uganda, Chad, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Years of widespread poaching and civil war in their home range have devastated northern white rhino populations, and they are now considered to be extinct in the wild. Only four remain, three live on Ol Pejeta.
On December 20th, 2009, four of the world’s last remaining seven northern white rhinos arrived at Ol Pejeta. Najin, Fatu, Sudan and Suni had been living in Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. All previous breeding attempts in the Zoo had been futile, and the hope was that the climate and rich grasslands of Ol Pejeta, a native habitat for the animals, would provide them with more favourable breeding conditions.
To keep the northern white rhinos safe and in good health, Ol Pejeta dedicated 24hr armed security, a 700-acre enclosure, and a nutritious diet supplemented with fresh vegetables. Expectations were raised when Suni was seen mating with Najin in 2012, but as the gestation period of 16 months wore on, it was clear that Najin was not pregnant. With so few northern whites remaining, it was decided that a southern white male would be introduced to Fatu and Najin in the hope of producing offspring that would at least preserve some of the northern white genes. Again, this proved unsuccessful.
In October 2014, we were devastated with the loss of Suni, who died of natural causes in his enclosure. His death leaves Sudan as the only northern white male in the world capable of breeding. In early 2015, checks by vets from the Czech Republic dealt us another blow – neither of the females is capable of natural reproduction, and Sudan’s sperm count was disappointingly low (but not surprising given his age). In July 2015, Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic lost Nabire, leaving just four northern white rhino left on the planet.
The vet checks did conclude one last ray of hope – that in vitro fertilisation (IVF) was a possibility. While this does not come without risks (and significant costs) – all other options have been exhausted and time is running out. Keep up to date with our latest news to find out if we can save the last of the northern white rhino.