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Sudan, the last male of the white northern rhinoceros, is dead

Safari Park Dvůr Králové and Reserve Ol Pejeta reported with a great deal of grief a week ago that the last male rhinoceros (otherwise white) northern rhinos had to be held in Kenya on March 19th.

Sudan has been under constant veterinary supervision in recent months due to complications associated with its high age, which have led to degenerative changes in the muscles and bones accompanied by extensive skin lesions. His health has deteriorated significantly in the last 24 hours when he was unable to build. The Veterinary Team, composed of representatives of Safari Park Dvůr Králové, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Kenya Wildlife Service, therefore decided not to prolong its suffering and proceed to euthanasia.

Sudan has experienced an extraordinary life. In the 70s of the last century, he escaped the displacement of his relatives in the wild by moving to Dvůr Králové. By the infestation of the two females, they contributed significantly to the conservation of their species, and yesterday samples of genetic material were collected, giving hope for the reproduction of white northern rhinoceroses by using state-of-the-art cellular technologies. He spent his last years back in Africa, where he earned the hearts of many people with his dignity and tenacity.

"All of us in Ol Pejet are saddened by Sudan's death. It was an amazing rhinoceros, a great ambassador of its kind. We will remember him for his unique ability to attract worldwide attention to the critical situation not only of rhinos but of many thousands of other species who are at risk of extinction as a result of unsustainable human activity. Hopefully, his departure will once be considered a significant moment of initiation for nature conservation around the world, " said Richard Vigne, director of the Ol Pejet Reserve.

After Sudan's death, the last two female northern rhinoceros, his daughter Najin and her daughter Fatu, both born in Dvůr Králové and now living in the Ol Pejeta Reserve, remain the world's last. The only hope for the rescue of these rhinos is the development of in vitro fertilization methods (IVF) using eggs from the last two females, frozen Northern White male seed as well as substitute mothers of white southern rhinoceros for donation of embryos.

How did we get here?

Extensive poaching in the 1970s and 1980s, caused by the demand for rhinoceros in Asian traditional medicine and as a material for the manufacture of a dagger in Yemen, led to the extinction of white northern rhinoceroses in Uganda, the Central African Republic, Sudan and Chad. The last population of about 20 to 30 rhinoceros in the Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been the victim of fighting in the region at the turn of the millennium. Since 2008, most Northern White Rhinos experts have considered extinct in the wild.

In 2009, the last four breeding animals - two males and two females - were transported from Safari Park Dvur Kralove to the Ol Pejeta Reserve in Kenya (supported by Flora & Fauna International and Kenya Wildlife Service). African climate and vegetation, an environment close to the naturally occurring species, was supposed to provide four more suitable conditions for reproduction

From the arrival to Ol Pejety, four of the animals from the Court were under continuous armed supervision and the nurses immediately started feeding them with supplementary feed. Despite the fact that repeated mating was observed, none of the females successfully killed.

In 2014, preparations were made for linking Nájin and Fatu with a male relative of a white southern rhino in the hope that an eventual young hybrid would carry at least some of the northern subgenus genes. Unfortunately, this attempt failed. The investigations of the two females later revealed that none of them were able to reproduce naturally, and that only one of them would theoretically be able to digest using artificial reproduction methods. The death of one of the males, Suni, in October 2014, experts confirmed that it is absolutely necessary to find another solution to help white northern rhinos survive.

What will be next?

As the possibilities of white northern rhinoceroses to save naturally, scientists have decided to develop artificial reproduction methods, including IVF, to save this species. Safari Park Dvůr Králové and Ol Pejeta teamed up with IZW Berlin, Avantea in Cremona, Italy and Kenya Wildlife Service, and will try to get the eggs from the northern females living in Ol Pejeta for the first time. They then attempt to fertilize them with male seeds and then embed the embryos into relatives of the white Southern Rhine as substitute mothers. This procedure, however, has never before been carried out in the case of northern rhinos and carries a certain degree of risk.

"Sudan was the last white northern rhino that was born in the wilderness. His death is a cruel symbol of human contempt for nature and saddened all those who knew Sudan. It is not, however, a reason to give up. We should take advantage of the unique situation where state-of-the-art cellular technologies can be used to protect critically endangered animals. It may sound incredible, but with the use of newly developed technologies, Sudan could even have descendants, " said the Director of Safari County Park Přemysl Rabas. "We will be grateful to all of us who will help us in our efforts."

Estimated costs for this project - from the development of methods, through follow-up experiments, embryos to surrogate mothers, to the creation of a reproductive group of northern white rhinoceroses, are in the order of millions of dollars. But it is the only way we can save the whole species from extinction. Safari Park Dvůr Králové and the Ol Pejeta Reservation ask for help from anyone who can support this project and help us get the necessary funds before it is too late.
Wildlife Account


Source: tz
Photo to tz: Jan Stejskal, Dvur Kralove Zoo

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