From The Editors

The Life and Death of SUDAN – the Last Male Northern White Rhino

Farewell Sudan (1973 – 2018)

Sudan, a northern white rhino, the last male of his subspecies, had been living at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya, ever since he was transported to this 90,000-acre non-profit wildlife conservation facility, along with three other rhinos named Suni, Najin and Fatu.

On March 19, Sudan was euthanized after a team of veterinarians arrived at the difficult but inevitable decision to put an end to his misery. The rhinoceros had been suffering from “age-related complications.” He was 45-years old, which in rhino terms is the equivalent of a senior citizen.

News of his death reverberated across the world, touching even the hardest of hearts – one would like to believe.

Elodie Sampere, an Ol Pejeta representative called Sudan a “gentle giant,” saying that in spite of his intimidating size, he was never aggressive.

“He was a gentle giant, his personality was just amazing and given his size, a lot of people were afraid of him. But there was nothing mean about him,” Sampere said.

After contracting an infection on his right hind leg late last year, probably age-related, Sudan had been responding to treatment and showing signs of recovery until recently, when the infection relapsed with a vengeance.

In spite of the dedicated care and all-around attention at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Sudan’s health continued to deteriorate, and by the start of this month, the writing was large on the wall.

Sudan and his bodyguards
Sudan and his bodyguards

With Suni having died in 2014, Sudan spent his twilight years with daughter Najin and granddaughter Fatu, the last two northern white rhinos alive on the planet.

Looks like the end of the subspecies is but a matter of time, unless, of course, science finds a way to impregnate Najin and Fatu and save the northern white rhino from the brink of extinction.

Reports suggest that researchers have managed to save Sudan’s DNA samples, raising hopes – as faint as they are, for now – of a revival of the subspecies.

“There’s no guarantee that [IVF] will work,” Philip Muruthi, vice president of species protection at the African Wildlife Foundation told National Geographic, adding that the procedure was outrageously expensive, upwards of $9 million, approximately.

“This is a bitter lesson of species conservation,” he said.
In a moving Facebook eulogy, James Mwenda, one of Sudan’s dedicated caregivers at the Conservancy, wrote his heart out.

“As you taught me daily I continued to teach and inspire my fellow humans to be conscious and sensitive of our environment,” wrote the man who had been close to Sudan the last few years, before the doomed male was sadly, but mercifully, put down on Monday.

What he says next, reflects the true love and respect the man had for the beast.

“When I look back,In my years of caretaking you,my sadness and the essence of losing you is overcome by a contentment that I gave you all the best.Sudan I don’t regret anything as deep within my heart I gave you everything,” Mwenda wrote.

“What I regret most,is whether my fellow humanity has learned from your existence.i tried as much to help them hear you through my thoughts and the lessons I learned through our personal day to day life, though still my voice has been small,I have testimonies that you have left an imprint in the hearts of many especially those I interacted with,” he continued.

“All I can ask you is your blessing buddy,that blessing means everything to me,old as you were I celebrate your live well lived,” he said.

That does make you a little misty-eyed, doesn’t it?

Ami Vitale, a National Geographic photographer, wrote on Instagram that the death of Sudan was the death of a species at the hands of humans. Well, he can’ be more right!

“Today, we are witnessing the extinction of a species that had survived for millions of years but could not survive mankind,” he wrote.

Some reactions to Sudan’s passing

While we mourn Sudan’s loss, and with it the loss of an entire subspecies, we have to find solace in the fact that he is free from his long drawn illness; free from the agony of the ‘degenerative changes in his muscles and bones;’ free from the painful skin infections.
At last free from a painful existence!

RIP Sudan – May science be able to save your kind!

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