Northern white rhinosNorthern white rhinos

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Extinct in the Wild

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 two remain, both on Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

The Story of the Northern Whites:

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.

More of a visual person? Check out this really cool infographic about the story of the northern whites!

Safeguarding 24/7

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 left 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, and in November 2015, San Diego Zoo lost Nola - leaving just three northern white rhino left on the planet.

On the 19th of March, 2018, Sudan died. He had been suffering from age-related health issues and from a series of infections. Once his condition worsened significantly and he was unable to stand up and evidently, suffered a great deal, the decision to euthanise him was made by his veterinary team.

Tell Me Something Good!

The vet checks did conclude one last ray of hope – that artificially assisted reproduction was a possibility. The future of this subspecies now lies in the development of in vitro fertilisation techniques and stem cell technology, costly and complicated procedures that have never before been attempted in rhinos. Ol Pejeta Conservancy is together with Dvůr Králové Zoo trying to raise funds to keep the northern white rhino in existence.


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